Darius Leonard’s monstrous production proves he deserves extension after season

Darius Leonard is a superstar in the making for the Indianapolis Colts.(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Darius Leonard is a superstar in the making for the Indianapolis Colts.(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Colts linebacker Darius Leonard’s incredible production since entering the NFL in 2018 proves that he deserves a contract extension in the offseason.

The Indianapolis Colts entered their bye in Week 7 with a laundry list of concerns on the heels of two consecutive lackluster performances and they announced their return to the gridiron in dominant fashion, cruising to a 41-21 road victory over Detroit on Sunday.

Head coach Frank Reich’s side is now tied (on record) with Tennessee, which suffered a shocking loss to Cincinnati this weekend, for the AFC South lead and still has five divisional games remaining. We don’t mean to drive a nail into the good vibes, but fans shouldn’t be celebrating this victory too loudly as the Colts’ remaining slate this month will no doubt determine their fate this season.

It goes without saying that keeping linebacker Darius Leonard healthy for those fixtures will be huge for Indianapolis, and the overlooked superstar returned to the field with a bang vs the Lions, logging a team-high nine tackles and a strip sack of Matthew Stafford late in the third quarter as Detroit was driving with an opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown.

How many more highlights do we need to see? It’s been known for over two years that Leonard is a master at his craft and GM Chris Ballard shouldn’t think twice about giving him a monster contract extension this offseason.

Leonard’s rookie contract won’t expire until after the 2021 campaign, but he’s outperforming that deal so astronomically that he deserves a lucrative extension after the season. Since entering the NFL in 2018, the former second-round pick has registered more takeaways (11) than any player at his position.

That feat is impressive in its own right, but what is more mind-boggling is his overall body of work. In 33 career games, Leonard has racked up 320 tackles (22 for loss) 13 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, and an LB-leading seven interceptions.

It won’t be long before Leonard is recognized (on a national scale, that is) as the most complete linebacker — in terms of tackling rate, coverage prowess and ability to get after the quarterback — in the entire league, and the Colts should no doubt reward him for his unmatched production.

To put Leonard’s importance to Indianapolis’ defense simply, the group plays with a different swagger and moxie when he’s on the field compared to when he is sidelined with injury, and that fact alone proves he deserves to become one of the wealthiest linebackers in the sport.

Other than availability — he will have yet to play a full 16-game slate in his first three seasons — there literally isn’t an aspect of Leonard’s game that has room for improvement. Leonard needs to be a Colt throughout his prime years, so working out a deal to get him under contract for at least four years after his rookie deal ends is the move here.