Next offseason could be a lucrative one for a couple of Indianapolis Colts stars, none more than All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2021.
If Leonard has his way, and Bleacher Report's prediction is anywhere close to accurate, Leonard will reset the market for off-ball linebacker contracts in the NFL.
According to Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox's contract projections piece, Leonard is poised to land a 5-year, $95 million contract, clocking in at $19 million annually, which would surpass Seattle star linebacker Bobby Wagner's $18 million a year.
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.
Leonard has racked up the numbers through three seasons in Indianapolis, recording 416 tackles and 15.0 tackles for loss, grabbing two All-Pro honors and three Pro Bowl selections.
Just 26 years old, Leonard has some elite football ahead of him. Knowing how the Colts build through the draft and retaining their own guys, there's very little chance that Chris Ballard, Jim Irsay, and the Indianapolis Colts let "The Maniac" walk.
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It's a good bet that the Colts and Leonard reach an extension prior to the start of the 2021 season, ending any and all unnecessary speculation that could drag into the season.
At just $19 million a year, that's an easy deal for the Colts to ink Leonard to, considering his age, production, and importance to the future of the franchise.
Have thoughts on Darius Leonard's predicted record-breaking deal? Drop a line in the comments section below!