What could a potential extension for Colts linebacker Darius Leonard look like?
Fans in Indianapolis are probably extremely relieved that they don’t have to face the Houston Texans again in 2020 after Sunday marked the second instance this season that they nearly pulled off a last-second upset win over the Colts.
Much like their Week 13 matchup, a goal line fumble saved Indy’s bacon. Only this time, however, it was linebacker Darius Leonard who made it happen with a sensational last-ditch effort to punch the ball out of wide receiver Keke Coutee’s grasp before he could muscle his way into the end zone and tie things up with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
That game-capping play served as yet another reminder that Leonard is the Colts’ most important player on either side of the ball, and GM Chris Ballard should really stop at nothing to give him to a long-term extension in the offseason.
With that in mind, let’s dive into what a potential contract for Leonard, who’s very clearly a premier player at his position, might look like.
In order to determine how lucrative of a deal Leonard deserves, we have to understand the market for linebackers and how some of the best players at the position are getting paid. Here’s a small breakdown of those contracts that should help make that more clear.
- Khalil Mack: six years, $141 million ($23.5 million per year)
- Von Miller: six years, $114 million ($19.02 million per year)
- Bobby Wagner: three years, $54 million ($18 million per year)
- CJ Mosley: five years, $85 million ($17 million per year)
Those deals are admittedly all over the place in terms of years and guaranteed money, but they are fairly similar as far as annual average salary is concerned. When you consider that Leonard is just as productive as each of those studs — he’s averaged 127 tackles (8.3 for loss), 4.6 sacks, 5.3 QB hits, 2.3 interceptions and 6.6 passes defensed over his first two-plus seasons — he’s undoubtedly up there in price.
At the end of the day, we’re probably talking about something like a five-year, $92 million deal, which would pay him the third-highest paid linebacker in the NFL. If five years is too long, a four-year, $74 million extension could suffice both parties.
Either way, Leonard, despite the fact that his rookie contract doesn’t expire until after the 2021 season, should expect a colossal pay day coming his way this offseason after his third straight year of playing at an All-Pro level.