The Indianapolis Colts’ hesitance (or unwillingness) to spend big money in free agency has been met with mixed reviews among fans, and understandably so given that this roster is seemingly on the precipice of being able to compete for a championship.
However, it’s become abundantly clear that GM Chris Ballard is hoarding a chunk of the team’s remaining cap space — just above $30 million, per the latest calculations — for extensions for certain homegrown stars, including Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith.
Each of those players hail from the 2018 draft class and have established themselves as some of the top players at their respective positions.
When it comes to Leonard, however, he might have more incentive to wreak havoc against opposing offenses following the Raiders’ latest move.
Las Vegas signed offensive tackle Kolton Miller to a three-year, $54 million extension, making him the first member of the 2018 class to receive an extension.
Knowing how much Leonard thrives on the underdog narrative, you can’t help but feel that he’ll have something special in store for next season after stumbling across this piece of news.
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard is definitely going to take the Raiders’ latest roster move personally.
After all, we’re talking about a player who scrolls through social media for the sole purpose of reading criticism and using it as motivation … even though most of his critics are probably shielded behind fake profiles.
Don’t believe us? Allow us to direct you to a feature story published by The Athletic in the middle of last season. In the piece, Leonard shockingly revealed that he searches his name on Twitter before games and seeks out slander to intensify his fervor.
Another prime example came in Week 9 when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pegged 49ers stud Fred Warner as the best linebacker in the league. Leonard, as you would expect, took those remarks personally and responded with one of his best games of the season, tallying six tackles and a crucial fumble recovery in an overtime win.
If Leonard is crazy enough to use both direct and indirect criticism to get himself even more amped, you better believe Miller’s extension news will fall right under that category. After all, the Raiders tackle’s production doesn’t even come close to stacking up against Leonard’s.
For context, Miller has zero Pro Bowl nods and a combined 62.5 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus over his first three seasons.
Leonard, meanwhile, is a former Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-Pro who’s averaged 138 tackles (8.6 for loss), 5.0 sacks, 7.3 passes defended, 2.3 interceptions (!), and three forced fumbles per season early on in his career.
If you’re wondering why fans call him “The Maniac,” well, now you know. Leonard is a master when it comes to spinning narratives to make them portray him in a negative light. A genuinely average offensive tackle getting a big-money extension before him should fit that bill.