On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts released 28-year-old former All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, incurring a potential $27.7 million dead cap hit if another team does not sign him. The Colts will pay Leonard $15.7 million in base salary this season, unless another team claims him on waivers and absorbs the remaining weeks.
Leonard said on X: “Indy, I want to thank you for accepting me and my family with open arms. These past 6 years has been nothing but incredible! Through he good times and bad (times) y’all stood by my side. I apologize for not bringing that trophy back to the 317. The energy in Lucas Oil has been nothing but amazing and I thank you for every memory. I’m thankful to play for such an amazing fan base. I love you guys and wish the Colts nothing but the best! Maniac out.”
Leonard is a three-time All-Pro who just last season won the franchise’s Walter Payton Man of the Year and Ed Block Courage awards. Leonard worked his way back from a second surgery to correct a nerve issue in his back, but had been vocal about his lack of playing time this season. The Colts played him mostly on base defense while using E.J. Speed more on passing downs. Colts owner Jim Irsay said on X: “Colts Nation will always remember The Maniac’s palpable energy on the field with each tackle, interception, punch-out and fumble recovery. Off the field, he’s a servant leader and assisted numerous families in both his hometown and the Indianapolis community. We’re thankful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization. We wish him and his beautiful family the best moving forward.”
Leonard arrived as a second-round pick out of South Carolina State in the 2018 draft; he soon led the league with 163 tackles as a rookie and winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and being named a first-team All-Pro. He followed that stellar year with first- or second-team All-Pro selections the next three seasons; from 2018-21, he provided 15 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions. The Colts made Leonard the highest-paid linebacker in the game with a five-year, $98.5 million contract in the summer of 2021; however, he underwent surgery in June 2022 and sat out training camp, returning to play parts of two games before opting for a second surgery.
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