In what will undoubtedly be the most shocking news of the entire day, the Indianapolis Colts have released 3 x First Team All-Pro, 4 x Pro Bowler and former Defensive Rookie Of The Year, Shaquille Leonard, per Ian Rapoport.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 21, 2023
Why Was Shaquille Leonard Released?
Initially, this seems like an incredulous move for a team with few bona-fide superstars that is rebuilding behind their impressive rookie quarterback – before his season-ending injury, Anthony Richardson – and still in the hunt for a playoff berth. Leonard is both a leader and captain on this young Indianapolis Colts defence, so why would they release him?
Well, after missing the majority of the 2022 season with a back injury, Leonard has not been the same player this year that he was from 2018 – 2021. Much of the speed and explosiveness that exemplified his game and defined him as the new prototype for the modern day, off-the-ball linebacker. At the lighter, speedier 6’2, 220 lbs compared to the old school, downhill 240 lb run-stopping backer, Leonard along with fellow stud linebacker, Fred Warner, were the leading men to usher in the new 3-down, all purpose linebackers that could cover in the passing game as well as they could stop the run.
Yet now Leonard is not that same player, and his playing time in 2023 demonstrates this, going from taking 95% of defensive snaps to a far lower 70% this year.
Equally, the emergence of both Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed, both of whom are significantly cheaper than Leonard, will have assuredly contributed to Leonard’s release.
Shaquille Leonard will be owed $6.11 million by whoever picks him off of waivers, and if no one claims him he will go to the open market, where he will still be a red hot commodity for teams looking to shore up their linebacking core (the Philadelphia Eagles!!) for a potential Super Bowl run.
It will certainly be interesting to see both where Shaquille Leonard ends up, and how the Indianapolis Colts fare without him – yet another twist in the roller coaster that is the National Football League.
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