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Friday, March 23, 2007
Texans rebuff Giants, retain fullback Leach

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Moving to keep an important lead-blocker, the Houston Texans on Friday afternoon matched the restricted free agent offer sheet that three-year veteran fullback Vonta Leach signed with the New York Giants earlier this week.

The Texans had until Monday to match the four-year offer sheet, which is worth a total of $8 million and includes $1.6 million in guarantees.

By matching the offer sheet, the Texans assumed the terms of the deal that the Giants negotiated with Leach.

If the Texans had declined to match the offer sheet, Leach would have moved on to the Giants. Because he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2004, and Houston made Leach the lowest qualifying offer for a restricted free agent, a one-year deal for $850,000, the Texans would have received no compensation from the Giants if they hadn't matched.

Leach, 25, is a 250-pounder capable of clearing out linebackers and carving out holes for tailbacks running behind him. He is also an improving pass protector.

In three NFL seasons, Leach has yet to register a single rushing attempt and he has only 11 catches for 80 yards and one touchdown in 34 appearances, including 10 starts. His value, though, isn't in touching the ball as much as it is colliding with would-be tacklers. It was assumed that, if the Giants had acquired him, he would have replaced incumbent Jim Finn.

Leach entered the league with Green Bay in 2004 as an undrafted free agent. The former East Carolina standout played two seasons with the Packers, then was released last summer and signed by Houston, where he split time with Jameel Cook.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.