Darius Leonard Recruiting Former Matt Ryan All-Pro Teammate

Julio Jones

Getty Colts linebacker Darius Leonard is recruiting one of Matt Ryan's favorite targets to come to Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Colts have found their quarterback for the 2022 season. The Colts acquired veteran Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons for a 2022 third-round pick.

With Ryan heading to Indianapolis, one of the team’s biggest remaining needs is wide receiver. After breakout star Michael Pittman, Zach Pascal was Indianapolis’ No. 2 leading wideout with just 384 yards.

Colts linebacker Darius Leonard appears well aware of his team’s weakness at wide receiver. Less than an hour after Indianapolis acquired Ryan, Leonard began actively recruiting one of the top receivers available on the free agent market — Julio Jones.

Ryan and Jones played 10 seasons together in Atlanta. Together, the dynamic duo combined for 59 touchdowns.

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Matt Ryan-Julio Jones Connection

Jones left the Falcons last offseason as the team’s all-time leader in receiving yards and receptions. Ryan now departs Atlanta first in all of the organization’s noteworthy passing records.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand the impact of reuniting Ryan and Jones, who is a free agent, in Indianapolis. Over a 10-year period, Jones helped Ryan post 10 straight 4,000-yard passing seasons and win the 2016 MVP.

Furthermore, Ryan assisted Jones on his way to a nearly 13,000 receiving yards and two All-Pro seasons.

The Colts could use that kind of production among their wide receivers. Pittman emerged as a leading receiver, as he posted 88 receptions, 1,082 yards and six touchdowns last season.

But the team’s next receiver had nearly 700 fewer yards. Plus, both running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines had more catches than Indianapolis’ second wideout Zach Pascal.

There’s no doubting Leonard is on to something with his recruitment of Jones on Twitter. The need for another wide receiver definitely exists for the Colts, and the Ryan-Jones connection has worked wonders in the past.


Could Julio Jones Sign With the Indianapolis Colts?

While the need at wide receiver is there for Indianapolis, the question becomes how pricy will it be to sign Jones.

Indianapolis came into free agency as the team with the most salary-cap space in the NFL. But after acquiring Ryan, who Spotrac reports will have a $23.75 cap hit with the Colts in 2022, Indianapolis is now in the middle of the NFL pack in cap space with $17 million left to spend this offseason.

Before the Tennessee Titans restructured Jones’ contract after trading for him last summer, Jones held a cap hit of more than $15 million. This season, Overthecap reports he was to count as a $14.3 million cap hit, which the Titans reduced to $8.4 million by releasing him.

It remains to be seen what kind of market Jones will have this offseason. He has missed 14 games because of injuries over the last two seasons. In 2021, Jones posted only 31 catches for 434 yards and one touchdown in 10 games.

Jones had fewer receptions, yards and touchdowns the last two years combined than what he posted during the 2019 season. Now 33 years old, it’s fair to wonder if Jones is actually an upgrade over Pascal.

But if it’s for an affordable price, reuniting Ryan and Jones should intrigue the Colts. Maybe Leonard’s tweet will make Jones feel a desire to come to Indianapolis for more than just money.

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