Darius Leonard just reset the market for all defensive playmakers

With his huge new contract extension, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has quickly reset the top of the market for inside linebackers.

However briefly, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner was the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Colts and linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed to a five-year, $99.25 million contract extension.

According to Rapoport, the deal includes $52.5 million guaranteed and will pay Leonard $20 million per year over the first three years. The $19.85 million average tops Warner’s $19 million

Leonard has earned All-Pro honors in each of his first three seasons since the Colts took him the second round of the 2018 draft out of South Carolina State. He led the league in tackles (163 total, 111 solo) and won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, and two of his All-Pro nods have been First Team (2018 and 2020). For his career he’s averaging 9.9 tackles per game.  Over the last three seasons, he leads all NFL linebackers with seven interceptions. He also has 15 career sacks.

Darius Leonard has freshly reset the linebacker market

With the deals given to Warner and now Leonard, the market for inside linebackers is booming. Having someone who can patrol the field as a versatile force in the run and pass game is incredibly valuable in today’s NFL, and the premium is now being paid by teams who want to keep these stalwarts in the fold.

The agents for Eric Kendricks (Vikings) and Tremaine Edmunds (Bills) are surely among those keeping a keen eye on the deals other inside linebackers are getting, as a contract re-do or an extension looms in their respective cases. They won’t get deals equal to Leonard’s, but a rising tide raises all ships and even those a notch or two below the Colts’ linebacker have more market value now.

Darius Leonard draft

Leonard was a second-round pick by the Colts. He was the fifth linebacker taken in 2018.

Darius Leonard college

Leonard went to the little-known South Carolina State. It’s a proud day for the Bulldogs family.

Darius Leonard stats

Leonard has been first-team All-Pro in all three seasons in the NFL. He’s made two Pro Bowls, with 416 career tackles, 15 sacks and seven interceptions.