Texans need to keep lead-blocking Leach, Johnson says

His peers selected Vonta Leach as the one of the NFL's top 100 players, but Andre Johnson believes the fullback should be the Houston Texans' No. 1 priority this offseason.

Johnson, the Texans' Pro Bowl wide receiver, told the Houston Chronicle that he can't imagine the team's offense without the bruising lead blocker, who could be a free agent after the NFL lockout ends.

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"I don't know who we'll replace him with," Johnson said in a story published Monday. "He's the best at what he does."

Leach's NFL brethren agreed, voting the fullback to NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2011" in the No. 65 spot.

According to the Chronicle, Leach wants to stay with the Texans but on pay commiserate with his standing. Philadelphia Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver is the highest-paid fullback with a three-year, $11.2 million contract that he signed last year, and Leach is eyeing a deal richer than that.

Still, is a player who didn't carry the football once last season worth big money? Johnson says doubters should ask Texans running back Arian Foster, who benefitted from Leach's blocks to lead the NFL in rushing.

"We had a 1,600-yard rusher, and I think that explains itself," Johnson said. "He (Leach) does a great job. He's very important to our offense, and he's good on special teams, too."

Said Leach: "A lot of people don't understand what a fullback brings to the table -- the physicality, the play-action that opens up the pass, a hard-nosed player. I do everything they ask me to do."

Johnson also confirmed that he has tried to recruit cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to join the Texans and help improve the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense. But even Johnson admits it's a longshot because the franchise hasn't reached the playoffs in its nine-year history.

"It's tough (to sell) because everybody wants to win," Johnson said. "When you haven't been in the playoffs, it makes it a little tougher. But guys also recognize that we're a team on the rise. Hopefully, that'll work out for us, and he'll be part of the Texans. It'll be real tough to get him, but anything can happen."

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