Remember how the Indianapolis Colts refused to spend big in free agency and made the excuse they were preserving their cap space for big-money extensions for some of their homegrown stars like Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith?
Well, it appears Indy is finally starting negotiations with one of those players.
Leonard is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is poised to become one of the wealthiest linebackers in the NFL. However, finding a middle ground with the Colts’ financially-intuitive front office could take some time.
Some fans might not even view it was a concern. After all, Indy understands Leonard’s importance, and he loves the organization, so a deal will eventually get done, right?
Probably, but Leonard’s price tag could skyrocket before that happens because the 49ers are reportedly opening negotiations with fellow linebacker Fred Warner, who enjoyed a breakout campaign last year and is due for a new lucrative deal.
The 49ers could screw the Colts in contract talks with Darius Leonard.
Thanks a lot, San Francisco.
NFL insider Ian Rapoport is reporting that Warner is seeking to become the highest-paid linebacker in the league, which could derail any progress the Colts made in negotiations with Leonard if the 49ers beat them to the punch with Warner’s deal.
Though Leonard is as humble as they come, he understands his worth and would likely then demand more money than Warner. If that happened, fans would be hard-pressed having any qualms, as Leonard is much more decorated than the 49ers star.
For context, Warner is coming off his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod, whereas Leonard is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Pro Bowler and former Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.
In fact, if you were to compare their respective stats, Leonard has the advantage in tackles (416 to 367), tackles for loss (26 to 15), sacks (15 to nine), passes defended (22 to 21), QB hits (17 to 14), forced fumbles (nine to five), interceptions (seven to three) and pressures (28 to 27).
You can’t even call us biased.
Leonard has outperformed Warner in every aspect throughout their careers thus far and theoretically deserves more money than the BYU product.
With Leonard reportedly setting a baseline of $18 million — which is what Bobby Wagner, the current highest-paid inside linebacker, earns — Warner potentially signing for $19 or $20 million could force Leonard to set a new benchmark for himself.
While the Colts are willing to give Leonard what he wants (he’s certainly earned it), the more money that’s added to his new contract will give them less financial leeway in negotiations with Nelson, Smith and future free agents.
Who knows? Maybe Indianapolis’ structures his deal to ensure that doesn’t happen. The bottom line is that fans should keep a sharp eye on any potential progress made between the 49ers and Warner, because chances Leonard’s deal will increase in value as a result.