Broncos Urged to Sign All-Pro Linebacker After Surprise Cut

Sean Payton

Getty An All-Pro reinforcement might've just fallen into the laps of Sean Payton and the Broncos.

Through 11 weeks of the 2023 NFL season, the Denver Broncos are one game out of the AFC playoff picture. Denver’s resurgence under head coach Sean Payton has been shocking, given their 1-5 start to the year. The defense can always use reinforcements, and an All-Pro option might’ve fallen into their laps.

On Tuesday, November 21, the Indianapolis Colts unexpectedly released linebacker Shaquille Leonard. The news came after Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told Leonard he would be inactive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12.

In his November 21 article, Lou Scataglia of Predominantly Orange urged Denver to sign Leonard as the team makes a playoff push.

The Denver Broncos have a pretty porous run defense, and I’d venture to guess that Shaq Leonard could help shore that up for the Denver Broncos. Currently, Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell are the two starting inside linebackers, and they’ve turned into one of the best duos at ILB in football. Singleton makes about 48 tackles a game and Jewell has forced and recovered a ton of turnovers for Denver.

Shaquille Leonard was at one point one of the premier linebackers in football, and I believe he’s still very good, and if he clears waivers, could be had for cheap.

Injuries Wrecked All-Pro Career for Shaquille Leonard in Indianapolis

Shaquille Leonard

GettyInjuries took a toll on Shaquille Leonard during his time with the Colts.

Leonard exploded onto the NFL scene as a second-round pick in 2018.

During his rookie season, Leonard led the league with 163 tackles, generating four forced fumbles, two interceptions, eight passes defended and seven sacks. He took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.

Leonard could do it all with the Colts, as he was a tackling machine and excelled in pass coverage. Throughout his first four seasons, Leonard amassed 538 tackles and 15 sacks. He was named a First-team All-Pro in 2018 and from 2020-21.

Then, the pesky injury bug began to take its toll.

In 2022, Leonard missed the first three games while recovering from offseason back surgery. The linebacker returned in Week 4 against the Tennessee Titans and suffered a broken nose and concussion in the matchup. Leonard missed the following three games. His season ended on injured reserve after suffering a setback with his back injury.

In 2023, injuries likely caught up to the veteran defender as he failed to replicate his All-Pro form. Missed tackles and being out of position led to a decrease in his playing time.

After making 58 starts through his initial four seasons, Leonard has played in only 12 games since 2022.

Shaquille Leonard Could Become an Important Defensive Reinforcement in Denver

Shaquille Leonard

GettySigning Shaquille Leonard could prove important to a Broncos team inching toward the playoffs.

Leonard has a chance to prove his old team made a mistake in releasing him. Could that opportunity arise in Denver?

Due to the size of his contract, teams will probably not sign Leonard until he clears waivers, making him a free agent. If Leonard goes unclaimed off waivers, he would be a cheap late-season add for interested teams.

The Broncos need as much defensive help as they can get. Despite allowing an average of 17 points during their four-game winning streak, Denver is horrific defending the run.

According to ESPN, the Vance Joseph-led unit has allowed a league-high 160.0 rushing yards per game. The Broncos allowed the Minnesota Vikings to rush for 175 yards during their 21-20 win. Buffalo Bills running back James Cook had a season-best 9.1 yards per attempt when facing the unit in Week 10.

Inserting a veteran into the lineup would significantly boost the defense’s potential, assuming Denver continues winning. Leonard is an inexpensive option Payton and the front office should look into.

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