Rumors before the trade deadline shed light on what Bobby Okereke’s future with the Indianapolis Colts will probably look like.
The Indianapolis Colts are lucky to have one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL. The conversation for the top group is between Indy and the San Francisco 49ers. Shaquille Leonard, arguably the best linebacker in all of football, is the leader of the group in Indianapolis and he’s barely played this season because of injuries. However, Indy’s defense has still been led by great linebacker play.
Holding the middle of the field down for the Colts has been Zaire Franklin, Bobby Okereke, and EJ Speed. Franklin has been the best of this group this season and one of the top guys in the league, however, Okereke is the most interesting name in the group because of his contract situation. He’s currently playing in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract so his future with Indianapolis is up in the air.
Prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, Okereke was named as a possible trade target for the New England Patriots by Albert Breer. It’s likely that New England wasn’t the only interested team. Ultimately, Okereke wasn’t traded but the interest may have been a glimpse at his future. With the emergence of Zaire Franklin, and the solidified star that Leonard is, Okereke, with this season being the last of his contract, may be playing his last games as a member of the Colts.
Bobby Okereke could be playing his final games with the Colts
This offseason, Indianapolis re-signed Zaire Franklin to a three-year deal worth $12 million. At the time, it was just viewed as an appreciated move to keep an important team leader and veteran around. However, it turned out to be one of Indy’s most important moves of the offseason. Not only has Franklin filled in for Leonard, but he has excelled, playing like one of the league’s best linebackers.
He’s currently third in the NFL with 81 total tackles and 5.5 stuffs (a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage). Simply put, Franklin has arrived as a full-time linebacker in this league and the Colts are lucky to have him under contract for three seasons at just $12 million. Bobby Okereke, however, has been no scrub either.
He currently has the sixth-most tackles this season with 73 and also has five stuffs. He was the linebacker that led the Colts in tackles last season, even with Shaq Leonard playing a full season. He’s a starting linebacker in this league and he’ll likely want that opportunity and to be paid like one this offseason. However, with Okereke, Franklin, and Leonard, someone has to be the odd man out.
Shaquille Leonard definitely isn’t going anywhere and Indy already has Franklin under contract for two more seasons on a very team-friendly deal. So that means Okereke will likely explore free agency this offseason and find a new team. Plenty of teams need a quality inside linebacker, including the Chicago Bears who traded away Roquan Smith. Chicago’s head coach is Matt Eberflus, Okereke’s defensive coordinator in Indy for his first three seasons. Reuniting would make a lot of sense for both.
Whether it’s Chicago or another team, it’s starting to seem really unlikely that Bobby Okereke will return to the Indianapolis Colts next season.