The Indianapolis Colts have released former All-Pro linebacker Shaq Leonard, according to Ian Rapoport.
According to Mike Chappell, Leonard did not ask to be released. The move was ‘a personnel decision,’ and the team still owes him $6.1 million throughout the rest of the season.
Waiving Shaq was a personnel decision. From what I've been told, he did not ask Colts for his release.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) November 21, 2023
Team on the hook for roughly $6.1 million over remainder of season.
In a stunning move for the franchise, Leonard is released after six seasons with the Colts. Leonard posted a farewell message on Twitter Tuesday afternoon thanking the city of Indianapolis and wishing the Colts’ organization ‘nothing but the best moving forward.’
Colts’ owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Shane Steichen all released statements regarding Leonard’s time in Indianapolis. All three thanked Leonard for his contributions to the team and wished him well going forward.
Statements from #Colts GM Chris Ballard and HC Shane Steichen on four-time All-Pro LB Shaq Leonard, who was waived moments ago.— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) November 21, 2023
Ballard: “We wish him the best and he will always be a valued member of the Horseshoe."
Steichen: “I'm thankful for the energy Shaq brought … “ pic.twitter.com/znRtu3bY4u
In the last year, Leonard had two different back surgeries to repair nerve damage that ultimately caused him to miss significant time during the 2022 season. Since the beginning of the 2023 season, Leonard hasn’t looked like his old, ball-hawking self, and his level of play hasn’t been as consistent as it’s been in seasons past for Indianapolis’ defense.
The Colts inked the four-time All-Pro linebacker to a five-year, $99.25 million extension prior to the start of the 2021 season. But a number of injuries, including the two back surgeries previously mentioned, has caused Leonard to struggle since returning to on-field action for Indianapolis. Although the timing of the move itself may be surprising to some, Leonard’s play simply didn’t match what the Colts were paying him.
On more than one occasion, Leonard had expressed his frustration with his lack of playing time, particularly on third downs, this season. Now, after six years with the franchise, the multi-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro linebacker may get a chance to start fresh elsewhere for the rest of the 2023 season.