Shaq Leonard is almost surely going to hit the open market in midseason NFL free agency. The veteran linebacker was released by the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday afternoon in order for Indy to get out from under the five-year, $98.25 million contract extension he signed in 2021.
Over the past few seasons, Leonard has dealt with injuries that have seemingly robbed him of the All-Pro-caliber form he showed to earn that deal with the Colts. Though he will hit waivers, he's sure to clear as no team will want to take on that massive cap number, which will then make Leonard a free agent.
So which teams could come calling when he does enter free agency as they look to address a need at linebacker? Three potential contenders have an obvious fit for the 28-year-old.
3. Dallas Cowboys could replace Leighton Vander Esch with Shaq Leonard
There were Dallas Cowboys fans who were extremely worried about the possibility that losing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch while also losing cornerback Trevon Diggs might've started to sink Dan Quinn's defense. But the continued emergence of both Damone Clark and DaRon Bland have quelled many of those worries.
Specifically at linebacker, though, depth remains an issue. On the active roster right now, the Cowboys are looking at Clark, converted safety Markquese Bell (who has also been tremendous) and recently signed former first-round pick Rashaan Evans. That's not exactly a position group overflowing with options if another inury weree to happen, or even to diversify looks.
Leonard could come in and change that. For as brilliantly as Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and the Cowboys offense have been performing this season, the fact of the matter is that so much of the success in Dallas is tied to the defense. So taking any measures to ensure that side of the ball stays thriving is a good move for Jerry Jones.
Quinn is one of a couple of defensive coordinators on this list who could not only provide a valuable change of scenery for Leonard, but play to the veteran's strengths. Even if it's only a rental-type deal for the rest of the 2023 season, it could boost his stock and help the Cowboys pushing for the playoffs and a deep postseason run.