December 10, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — In a surprising transfer, Colts All-Professional linebacker Shaquille Leonard was waived by the staff Tuesday, a choice prompted by his declining efficiency after latest accidents.

Leonard, who returned to the lineup this season after two again surgical procedures in 2022 to appropriate nerve points, was getting inconsistent taking part in time as he tried to play his approach into kind. His uneven efficiency and ongoing restoration prompted coaches to take away him from the lineup on third downs and had him, at occasions, splitting earlier snaps with E.J. Velocity — choices that didn’t sit nicely with Leonard.

In two separate media availabilities, Leonard, 28, complained at size about his utilization. After being instructed he would cut up reps on early downs, Leonard stated, “It sucked listening to that. You are already not taking part in on third [down]; you are taking the reps on second down too? So, it is very heartbreaking to get that, however it’s what it’s.”

However there have been indications the Colts have been underwhelmed by Leonard’s latest efficiency. Coaches stated publicly that they have been on the lookout for extra splash performs from Leonard. In addition they had been searching for methods to get Velocity on the sphere. And within the absence of center linebacker Zaire Franklin in a latest recreation in opposition to Carolina, Leonard didn’t see a rise in taking part in time, with the Colts as a substitute turning to backup Segun Olubi to fill the position.

All of it led to Tuesday’s abrupt determination.

“These previous 6 years have been nothing however unimaginable!” Leonard wrote in a message posted on social media. “By way of the great occasions and dangerous time, y’all stood by my facet. I apologize for not bringing that trophy again to the 317. The vitality at Lucas Oil [Stadium] has been nothing however wonderful and I thanks for each reminiscence.”

Leonard, a 2018 second-round decide and Defensive Rookie of the Yr, will likely be remembered for the clutch playmaking that turned his calling card earlier than his accidents. He was a first-team All-Professional in 2018, 2020 and 2021.

In 70 video games with Indianapolis, he amassed 32 tackles for losses, 31 passes defended, 12 interceptions, 17 compelled fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

“Colts Nation will at all times bear in mind The Maniac’s palpable vitality on the sphere with every deal with, interception, punchout, and fumble restoration,” Colts proprietor Jim Irsay stated in a press release. “Off the sphere, he is a servant chief and assisted quite a few households in each his hometown and the Indianapolis neighborhood. We’re grateful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our group. We want him and his stunning household one of the best transferring ahead.”

Basic supervisor Chris Ballard added: “Shaq is the last word competitor and has been a fan favourite since he arrived as a rookie in 2018. We’re extremely grateful for his contributions to the staff and town of Indianapolis over the past six seasons. We want him one of the best and he’ll at all times be a valued member of the Horseshoe.”

In the end, Leonard’s complaints didn’t play a job in Tuesday’s determination, based on a staff supply.

Requested beforehand about how the fragile state of affairs is likely to be dealt with, one staff supply adamantly acknowledged to ESPN: “We are going to do what’s finest for the staff on the finish of the day.”

As a result of the commerce deadline has handed, Leonard should clear waivers earlier than turning into a free agent. His contract is critical. Leonard signed a five-year, $99 million contract in 2021.

That deal was scheduled to run by way of 2026, with Leonard slated to earn greater than $15.7 million in base wage this season. Releasing Leonard saves the Colts greater than $16 million in wage cap area in 2024, when he would have had a cap variety of $20.1 million.

The Colts crammed their open roster spot by signing veteran linebacker Ronnie Harrison Jr. off their observe squad.

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