Colts: Darius Leonard is worth every penny of hefty new contract

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 03: Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 03: Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts have put together some respectable defenses over the last few years despite lacking tons of game-changing individual players, and Darius Leonard’s manic style of play right in the center of it all has been a huge reason why.

After some questioned his selection high in the second round out of an FCS school in South Carolina State following an iffy showing at the Senior Bowl, Leonard evolved from an unknown at the position to one of the best linebackers and defensive players as a whole in the entire game.

Leonard and the Colts have both been eyeing an extension, as classmates like Fred Warner getting a new deal and Indy saving their cap space proves both sides wanted a deal to get done. Indianapolis finally capitulated, and they gave Leonard some life-changing money.

Per Ian Rapoport, Leonard is now the highest-paid linebacker in football, as his five-year, $99.25 million extension comes with $52.5 million in guaranteed money and $20 million in salary during his first three years. For what he brings to this defense, he is worth every cent of this deal.

Darius Leonard will be an impact player for the Colts.

Leonard has a Defensive Rookie of the Year in addition to two first-team All-Pro selections during his first three seasons. The only other linebacker to record 400 tackles, 15 sacks, seven interceptions, and nine forced fumbles in their first three seasons? Well, no one. 

While some might argues that linebackers are starting to die out with nickel and dime packages becoming the new normal in the NFL, that actually makes Leonard more valuable. With only two linebackers on the field at most times, having one game-changer like Leonard is even more valuable.

An impactful run defender, quality playmaker in coverage, and vocal leader, Leonard needed a bag of this size to be secured for the long-term. Sure, the Colts might not have liked Warner to have set the market with his extension, but Leonard was staying in Indy for the long haul no matter what.

This deal only confirms that he will be the main man in Indianapolis for the next few years. In a weak division that features two teams in Houston and Jacksonville that are years away from contending, Leonard will help Indy stay in the hunt for division titles.

The Colts have plenty of questions to worry about on this roster with a healthy Carson Wentz, let alone with him on the shelf. With Leonard back and signed to a hefty long-term extension, however, Matt Eberflus and Frank Reich can sleep soundly knowing their defensive cornerstone is in it for the long haul.