Why was Shaquille Leonard released? Exploring ex-Colts star's landing spots in 2023
Last week, former All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard was cut by the Indianapolis Colts in a surprising move. Leonard was drafted by the Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of South Carolina State.
Leonard made an immediate impact as a rookie. He led the league in tackles with 163 total tackles and added seven sacks, eight pass deflections, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Despite not being named a Pro Bowler, he was named a first team All-Pro as a rookie.
His stellar play would carry on for the next three seasons, from 2019-2021. He earned three straight Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro three more times.
Injuries have plagued Leonard the last two seasons, resulting in a decline in production, so it makes sense that the Colts released him. He played in just three games during the 2022 season due to offseason back surgery and also suffered a concussion.
In 2023, Leonard wasn't the same effective linebacker he once was. In nine games played, he recorded 65 tackles, but that's it. He didn't record a single sack, pass deflection, interception, forced fumble, or fumble recovery.
The Colts also figured they wouldn't get anything back in a trade with the declining linebacker due to his current contract. As a result, he was released by the Colts.
There were also reports that Leonard was complaining about being limited by the team weeks before his release.
Landing spots for Shaquille Leonard in 2023
Since Shaquille Leonard was released by the Indianapolis Colts, he is free to visit and sign with any team. Unlike the off-season, he doesn't have to wait until a certain date or time period to sign with a team since he was released from his current contract.
Here are three teams that could sign Shaquille Leonard:
The Dallas Cowboys are one of two teams that have had or plan to have a visit with Shaquille Leonard. Leonard met with the team earlier this week in a "successful" meeting, per Bleacher Report's Jordan Schultz.
The Cowboys have had bad luck at the linebacker position this season. They lost rookie linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who tore his ACL before the start of the season. Their luck got worse when veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was ruled out for the remainder of the season a few weeks ago. Both head coach Mike McCarthy and owner Jerry Jones have said that there is interest.
With a successful meeting, Leonard could keep Dallas as an option as to where he will sign.
Shaquille Leonard could very well end up signing with an NFC team.
After meeting with the Cowboys, Leonard has a visit lined up to meet with their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. It makes sense as to why Leonard would want to sign with the Eagles; they only have the best record in the NFL.
Linebacker Zach Cunningham recently suffered a hamstring injury vs the Buffalo Bills, and Leonard could possibly replace him.
The Eagles have one of the best rosters in the NFL and would add to their deep defense with Leonard.
Like the Cowboys, the Steelers have had issues at the linebacker position this season. They've lost both Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander to season-ending injuries.
They recently brought in former linebacker Myles Jack to help their linebacker core. At 7-4, the Steelers could make the playoffs but aren't as good as the Cowboys or Eagles.
Leonard could join one of the best defenses in the NFL, and could make them even better if he were to sign at Pitt. It will all depend on where Leonard decides to sign.