The Indianapolis Colts made a surprise decision on Tuesday that's sure to get the other 31 teams thinking about linebacker depth.
Linebacker Shaq Leonard said his goodbye to the Colts on social media after the three-time All-Pro was cut by the team after six years.
Indy, I thank you 💜 pic.twitter.com/VxMa1VU2IA— Darius Shaquille Leonard (@dsleon45) November 21, 2023
Leonard, 28, has started nine games for the Colts this season, but his playing time and production has taken a dip in the past couple of years. That being said, Leonard could still be a factor for a team in need of some linebacker help ... like the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons have struggled for continuity at the middle linebacker spot this season. In training camp, the team cut Mykal Walker, who was the primary starter at the position in 2022. There was hope that second-year pro Troy Andersen could fill that role, but his season came to an end after just two games when he was placed on injured reserve.
Since Andersen's departure from the lineup, Nate Landman has filled in, and he's done a decent job. However, the team could use some depth. That's where Leonard could come in.
Leonard is currently in the third year of a five-year contract worth $98.5 million. If he was picked up off waivers, whichever team claimed him would be responsible for paying him that contract.
If a team were to claim Shaq Leonard off of waivers, it would owe him $6.11M for the remainder of this season.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 21, 2023
He's under contract through 2026, due as follows:
The team could save a little over $12 million by cutting him before June 1, but it would still be a lot of money to pay him this season at $6.11 million.
The Falcons have cap space, but they may choose to take the risk in the case that Leonard would clear waivers. Then, Atlanta and the other 31 teams can agree to new terms on a contract.
By no means is Leonard a guarantee to come to the Falcons or even be a positive influence. However, if the Falcons want to compete for the NFC South, making a move like this could be one they consider.