Indianapolis Colts starting linebacker Shaquille Leonard expressed some frustration on Thursday over his limited role—as it appears he’ll still be routinely subbed out for teammate E.J. Speed on passing/nickel downs for the foreseeable future (via FOX59/CBS4’s Dave Griffiths):
Shaq Leonard does not seem happy with his continued, limited role with the Colts.— Dave Griffiths (@DaveG_Sports) November 2, 2023
"Gonna be similar, maybe even worse."
"They say I don't make enough splash plays, so I guess I'll still be watching for a little bit."
Full exchange here: pic.twitter.com/jboMg3kbCO
Earlier this season, Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley indicated that the team was building up Leonard’s snap count for a full workload in November, but that does not appear to be in the cards anymore given his recent play and production.
As guess what?
It’s already early November, and it doesn’t appear Leonard’s role will change anytime soon.
To the Colts credit, they have given Leonard ample snaps to work himself back into his prior All-Pro form. He’s played 367 to Speed’s 292 snaps so far during this Colts season. However, Leonard has yet to look like ‘The Maniac,’ and it’s a fair question if he ever will again—coming off two back surgeries.
It’s obviously a tough situation for both sides.
The 4x NFL All-Pro has to realize he’s not playing up to his prior superstar form and his massive contract—one which has a $19.8M cap hit in 2023. However, Leonard, the top competitor, likely still thinks he eventually can—if he continues to shake off the rust and work through it.
Leonard has admittedly looked a bit better in recent games—showing some familiar flashes, but it’s still a far cry from what he once was collectively.
Ultimately, the Colts may eventually face a crossroads with arguably their greatest linebacker in franchise history.
Leonard has a $20.124M cap hit in 2024 with a dead cap hit of $8M, and the team could save roughly $12M by releasing him this upcoming offseason.
Perhaps the Colts could give him one more year to try to return to the Maniac, but it’s hard to see Leonard making it through his entire contract as it stands, which is set to expire in 2026.