Bleacher Report predicts huge contract extension for Darius Leonard

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Kevin Hickey
·2 min read
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The Indianapolis Colts were relatively quiet in free agency, citing the need to extend some star players in the near future. One of them is linebacker Darius Leonard.

While there is an argument surfacing about paying a linebacker top money in the league, Leonard is going to secure the bag soon. He’s likely to be the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL once he gets a new deal.

Bleacher Report is projecting a massive five-year, $95 million deal for the former second-round pick.

A second-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, Darius Leonard has emerged as one of the NFL’s best off-ball linebackers. He’s already a two-time first-team All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler with 416 tackles, 15.0 sacks, nine forced fumbles and seven interceptions.

It should surprise no one to see Leonard reset the off-ball linebacker market in 2022. Bobby Wagner leads the league among non-pass-rushing linebackers at $18 million annually. Leonard is similarly productive and roughly five years younger than Wagner—Leonard won’t turn 26 until July.

He will be one of the hottest names on the free-agent market if the Colts don’t extend him. A return to Indianapolis feels likely, given the team’s league-best projected cap space for 2022. The Colts have a potential future Hall of Famer in Leonard and little reason to let him walk.

However, a team like Cincinnati could make a serious run if he reaches the market.

The Bengals should be loaded with cap space ($64.2 million) and need a defensive playmaker of Leonard’s caliber. Last season, Cincinnati’s defense ranked 19th against the pass and 29th against the run in terms of yards allowed.

Because of Leonard’s combination of production, Pro Bowl status and youth, he’s likely to land a record-setting long-term contract wherever he lands.

Contract Prediction: five years, $95 million

The Colts have maintained the fact that they want to do right by the players they have drafted by giving them nice second contracts. It’s inevitable that Leonard is going to be extended in a big way because of what he means to the defense both production-wise and in the locker room.

It will be interesting to see what the final deal looks like, but it’s likely going to be very big.

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