“Colts nation will always remember The Maniac’s palpable energy on the field with each tackle, interception, punchout and fumble recovery,” owner Jim Irsay said in a statement. “We’re thankful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization.”
Leonard was a second round draft pick out of South Carolina State in 2018 and was instantly a star, winning the 2018 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award while leading the league with 163 tackles. In his first four seasons, Leonard produced over 500 total tackles and made four All-Pro teams and three Pro Bowls.
However, the last two seasons have been a struggle for Leonard. The veteran only played in three games in 2022 due to a variety of injuries, including a concussion and a lingering back injury, and he hasn’t been able to return to form this year. This year, Leonard has just 65 tackles and has yet to record a sack or a forced fumble.
“These past six years have been incredible! Through the good times and the bad times, y’all stood by my side,” Leonard said in a letter to Indianapolis fans. “I apologize for not bringing that trophy back to the 317. The energy at Lucas Oil has been nothing but amazing and I thank you for every memory.”
Indy, I thank you 💜 pic.twitter.com/VxMa1VU2IA— Darius Shaquille Leonard (@dsleon45) November 21, 2023
In 2021, Leonard signed a five-year, $99.25 million contract extension with Indianapolis, so this release means the team is on the hook for Leonard in the future if he clears waivers. Leonard is due $54.6 million over the next three seasons.