Colts Trade for Linebacker Depth, Exchange Draft Picks With Bucs

Chris Ballard

Getty Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard traded for a linebacker on August 30.

Along with every other NFL team on August 30, the Indianapolis Colts are mostly cutting players in order to get the roster down to the maximum of 53 by the 4 pm deadline. But in the hours prior to the deadline, the Colts added a player to their roster through a trade.

Indianapolis announced on August 30 that they have acquired linebacker Grant Stuard, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-round choice next year.

In addition to linebacker, Stuard played a lot on special teams for Tampa Bay.

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Stuard to Become Key Member of Special Teams for Colts?

As a rookie in 2021, Stuard only played 26 defensive snaps for the Buccaneers. But he lined up for 65% of the team’s snaps on special teams. Including the postseason, Stuard played 311 special teams snaps last year, which was third most for Tampa Bay.

In 17 games last season, Stuard posted 15 combined tackles and forced a fumble on a punt return in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.

More than likely, special teams is where Stuard will contribute the most again for the Colts. Indianapolis lost safety and special teams stalwart Armani Watts to a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason finale on August 27. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez was also lost for the season during the final week of training camp because of an Achilles injury.

Stuard’s ability to cover punts and kickoffs will help the Colts overcome the loss of Sanchez and Watts.

Colts’ Linebacker Depth

While Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard’s trade for Stuard is mostly for the special teams unit, Stuard will be a bit of an insurance policy for the Colts defense as well.

Indianapolis still has yet to make a decision about linebacker Shaquille Leonard. He underwent back surgery on June 7 and has been on the PUP list since the start of training camp.

Even as Leonard approaches the end of his third month in recovery, the Colts do not have a timetable for his return. It’s possible that Leonard begins the regular season on the PUP list, which would mean he misses the first four games.

“Based on the fact that he really is not out here yet, I guess you’d have to say that’s a possibility [him beginning the season on the PUP list].” Reich told the media on August 23. “But I’m not assuming that’s the case.”

In an update on August 28, Reich said the Colts still had not made a decision about whether Leonard will be on the active roster for Week 1.

If he’s not available, linebackers Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed will play a majority of the snaps in place of Leonard. But with Stuard now on the roster as well, the Colts new linebacker could play in the middle of the defense as well to ensure Franklin and Speed don’t get too fatigued.

The Buccaneers drafted Stuard in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He posted 191 total tackles, including 16.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and 4 pass defenses in 33 college games during four seasons at Houston.

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