Posted by: Shaun Dolence
“He’s more of a hybrid running back who can knock over anybody. When you look at the successful teams right now, you see two-back systems usually with one big running back. Leonard fits that mold, and there should be lots of interest in him.”
- Deceptive speed and elusiveness.
That was a quote from Leonard Weaver’s agent from February, a few weeks before free agency opened. True, Weaver is a hybrid back with unique skills that set him apart from most fullbacks, and he has had some recent success in Seattle. But what happened to Weaver being a hot commodity on the open market?
Before free agency opened, Weaver had lots of potential suitors, and it appeared he would get a lot of attention from around the league. So what happened? It is surprising that more teams have not met with Weaver – like St. Louis, Philadelphia, and others.
Has Weaver’s agent overestimated his market value? Is Weaver asking for so much that potential suitors are looking elsewhere for backfield depth? The 49ers were thought to have had general interest in Weaver, yet they settled on fullback Moran Norris (three-year, $5 million contract) – a traditional blocker who has only carried the ball 11 times during his 9-year NFL career. The Saints released Mike Karney, and were rumored to have interest in Weaver. Before Weaver had an opportunity to visit New Orleans, the Saints decided to take an alternate route, signing former Seahawk Heath Evans (two-year contract).
Maybe we’re all glorifying Weaver’s abilities. Maybe we’re not be appreciative enough of the fullbacks who go unnoticed – the guys who leave the field bloodied and wake up sore every Monday morning, with no observable statistics to show for it. Perhaps the latter is what teams are looking for in a fullback.
- Weaver is great at blocking airborne defenders.
I love Weaver as a player; I think he has great physical ability and is a playmaker on the field. Weaver’s rare athleticism as a runner and receiver out of the backfield make him a versatile threat that opposing defenses must account for. He boasts remarkable elusiveness and excellent footwork – unusual characteristics for a player at his position.
Weaver, a converted tight end from Carson-Newman, initially received criticism for his blocking. Through hard work and coaching, however, his blocking has improved significantly. That apparently isn’t enough for Weaver to land the big deal he was looking for in free agency.
I’m holding out hope that the Seahawks can retain Leonard Weaver, as long as the price is right. We’ve already overpaid for a few of our running backs, and I believe that Owen Schmitt is a capable replacement at fullback. It seems the Seahawks are prepared to move on without Weaver, however, as they’ve shown moderate interest in fullback Justin Griffith – another undersized blocker with good receiving skills, but lacks the ability to really thump defenders and has had a recent injury history.
If Weaver’s price tag drops and we’re able to re-sign him, here is a thought: start Schmitt at fullback, and use Weaver in the backfield as needed. Let him split carries with Julius Jones, bring him in on third downs as the primary back, and play him alongside Jones or another running back in split formations. Obviously, we’re not going to want to overpay for a guy who won’t be starting or getting a significant amount of carries, but if he returns for a reasonable price, get him on the field. Utilize his unique set of skills, deceptive speed, and ability as a receiver. Get Schmitt on the field as your bruiser — the guy who prides himself in ruining his football helmet – and allow Weaver the opportunity to make plays.
Of course, this is all in a perfect situation. Who knows if Weaver is willing to return in that role, or if he’ll be keen on the idea of being a situational player? I’m excited about the prospect of such a scenario, but it’ll depend on what happens with Weaver this off season. What are your thoughts on Weaver?