The Indianapolis Colts are on the verge of adding a longtime starter and Super Bowl-winning defender to their lineup for the 2022 season.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Colts are finalizing a deal to sign former Philadelphia Eagles starting safety Rodney McLeod for next season. The 31-year-old veteran was a crucial part of the Eagles’ 2017 roster that won Super Bowl LII and bounced back from a torn ACL in late 2020 to start 13 games last season.
McLeod — who has started 123 career games over his 10 NFL seasons — brings a wealth of experience currently missing from the Colts’ safety room and will likely factor into their starting rotation in 2022 along with returning starters Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis. The Colts also recently signed safety Armani Watts as a free agent, but he projects as more of a core special teamer than a regular defensive contributor.
While the terms of McLeod’s deal with the Colts have not yet been disclosed, there is a good chance it will turn out to be worth less than the two-year, $12 million extension he signed with the Eagles during the 2020 offseason. He is still a starter-quality defender capable of bringing a jolt to an NFL defense, but he will turn 32 in June and has dealt with significant knee injuries in two of his last four seasons.
The Colts had about $21.7 million in cap space for 2022 prior to signing McLeod.
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McLeod Was Unsung Hero for Eagles
The Eagles made a big play for McLeod when he first ventured into free agency following the 2015 season. He was coming off three straight seasons as an every-game starter for the then-St. Louis Rams and was considered one of the top safeties on the free-agent market before signing a five-year, $35 million contract with Philadelphia. In hindsight, it might have been the Eagles’ most underrated signing of the last decade.
During his six seasons with the Eagles, McLeod picked off 11 passes and deflected another 34 while logging four forced fumbles, two sacks and 239 solo tackles over 75 starts. He also seemed to strike at the moments when the Eagles needed him most, such as when he sacked Matt Ryan in the NFC Divisional Round in the 2017 playoffs or snagged a game-winning interception to clinch the team a 2021 playoff berth.
Of all the qualities lost in McLeod’s departure, the Eagles will probably miss his veteran leadership most. He has been the unquestioned leader of their defense for many seasons now and will be hard to replace even with some solid pieces in their core. On the flip side, his leadership could become a major asset for the Colts in 2021 and help guide their young secondary to new heights.
Could McLeod’s Arrival Lure Another Defender?
McLeod might not be a future Hall of Fame talent, but don’t underestimate the value of players who work well together in the same defensive system when it comes to roster building. As Nate Atkins of the Indianapolis Star noted, it is possible the Colts will take a look at another former member of the Eagles’ secondary — cornerback Steven Nelson — as they continue to navigate pre-draft free agency.
Nelson started all but one game for the Eagles in 2021 and has prior connections to Colts head coach Frank Reich — who drafted him in Kansas City in 2015 — but he had his fair share of struggles in coverage with 44 receptions allowed on 64 targets. He also tallied seven pass deflections and one interception. The Colts might still want to find Kenny Moore help in the upcoming draft, but adding another veteran could be worthwhile if they can find an agreeable price point.