Stunner: Indianapolis Colts Release 3-Time All-Pro Linebacker Shaquille Leonard

The NFL is full of surprises. In a stunning move, the Indianapolis Colts released three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker and 2018 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Shaquille Leonard Tuesday afternoon. Leonard broke the news himself via Twitter/X.

It's a shocking turn of events for the Colts and their longtime defensive leader. Leonard had seemingly bounced back from a frustrating 2022 season in which he missed all but three games, starting nine games so far this season and logging 65 tackles. The 5-5 Colts also remain square in the playoff hunt.

Leonard will head to waivers, meaning teams will have the right to claim his contract, but that will be difficult for most franchises at this point in the year: he's due a sizeable $6.2 million in remaining salary this season. Beyond that, he's owed nearly $55.4 million in salary and bonuses from 2024 to 2026. With that all being the case, he'll likely pass through waivers and have a chance to sign with whatever team he pleases as a free agent.

It's possible the Colts don't see themselves as a contender and are allowing Leonard the opportunity to latch on with a championship-calibre team ahead of the playoffs. Still, teams don't typically offer valuable star players those sorts of favors. 

More than likely, the Colts don't see Leonard as a significant difference-maker at this point in his career and are content with an amicable split. He's currently sitting on a subpar 60.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus over his 455 snaps and has yet to log a sack, forced fumble, pass deflection, or interception so far this season. Even without those splash plays, Leonard's resume will certainly earn him close looks from teams with a leadership void at inside linebacker. 

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