On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts made the shocking decision to release linebacker Shaquille Leonard. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that he was waived, many people expected that to happen this coming offseason. It’s the fact that Indy decided to do it during the season, with seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
Since entering the league in 2018, Shaq Leonard has been one of the best linebackers in the NFL. In his first four seasons, he made three Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams (three First-Team). However, the last two years have been a struggle for Leonard. In 2022, he had two back surgeries and played just 74 snaps over three games. In 2023, Leonard has been healthy, but he has struggled to find a role and his rhythm with the team.
Only playing 70% of the defensive snaps this year, Leonard has 65 tackles with two for a loss in nine games this season. While he hasn’t been The Turnover King, elite version of himself, he’ll likely still generate a ton of interest now that he’s available. His massive contract makes it unlikely that he’ll be claimed on waivers, but there will definitely be a few teams willing to sign him once he’s officially a free agent.
As a veteran, that wants to win, Leonard will likely want to go to a contender. So while there are teams that he has connections to (Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers), their record will keep them off the list of options. Let’s take a look at four teams that make a lot of sense for Leonard.
4. The Miami Dolphins make sense for Shaquille Leonard
Dolphins fans have been trying to get a Colts player down to Miami since the offseason. Of course, it started with their desires for running back Jonathan Taylor. However, he remains in Indianapolis, but another Malki Kawa client is now available, and does make sense.
Miami is currently 7-3 and on their way to comfortably winning the AFC East. They have one of the most productive offenses ever and a defense that has made significant strides with Vic Fangio and Jalen Ramsey. However, many fans will admit that they aren’t comfortable with the off-ball linebacker group.
The starting inside linebackers are David Long Jr. and Jerome Baker. While there are concerns about Baker, Long has been playing pretty well lately. There isn’t much proven depth behind them, though. Leonard could join the team, provide depth, be a rotational piece, and probably even start depending on how he looks on the field.