As we get closer to the start of the Colts’ training camp, the Colts have signed all of their eleven draft picks but one. Linebacker and 36th overall pick Darius Leonard was brought in largely because of his speed and performance at the Senior Bowl. Ballard had this to say about why he selected Leonard.
“His Senior Bowl was impressive,” Ballard said of the 6-2, 234-pound Leonard, who runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. “I thought he stood out. His speed, his athleticism, his ability to cover ... we thought he was the fifth-best ‘backer in the draft and we thought he has big upside.”
“That’s what we want at linebacker. Guys who can play in space, close (on) the football, and you have to do that with speed. The way we play, speed is at a premium. He has good speed. He is a great kid, he’s passionate about football ... he was one of the guys who we think has real grit.”
It is obvious that Ballard liked what he saw in Leonard, however, we haven’t seen him join the Colts for any offseason activities up to this point, as he was held out with an undisclosed injury during minicamp. That makes cutting a contract signing down to the wire far less than ideal.
The linebacker position is sorely lacking and for a rookie hoping to integrate into a starting role, reps are critical. Having missed those early practices and the opportunities that they offer to learn and grow in Eberflus’ system, it will be crucial that Leonard is involved in training camp.
According to Stephen Holder, the expectation is that a deal will get done before the rookies have to report on Sunday.
Colts LB Darius Leonard is the lone rookie among the team's 11 picks yet to sign his contract. Source says they still expect to have it done by the time rookies report on Sunday. Going down to the wire.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) July 18, 2018
While it is uncommon under the new collective bargaining agreement, it is not unheard of for rookies to hold out of training camp when a deal cannot be reached. Given the importance of the position and his role in the linebacker group, we can only hope that both sides are diligently working to come to an agreement so that we can see the 2nd round pick out there once camp opens.