Darius Leonard is the new leader among linebackers, signing a lucrative contract extension worth up to $99.25 million over five years. Per a league source with knowledge of the contract here is the breakdown of the deal.
In 2021 Leonard will keep his same $3.384 million salary and also receive a $20 million signing bonus. This increases his salary cap number from $4.22 million to $8.22 million this year. Leonard’s salary is now fully guaranteed.
In 2022 Leonard will have a base salary of $6.9 million which is fully guaranteed at signing. The cap charge will be $10.92 million.
In 2023 Leonard will have a base salary of $15.7 million which is guaranteed for injury. $2.7 million is fully guaranteed at signing. Another $12 million will be guaranteed on the 5th day of the 2022 league year and the final $1 million will be guaranteed in 2023. His cap number will be $20.2M
In 2024 Leonard has a $13.61 million salary of which $6.5 million is guaranteed for injury. That will be fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the league year. He will also earn a roster bonus of $2 million on that day. His cap figure will be $20.12M.
In 2025 Leonard will have a $14.84 million salary and a roster bonus of $4.2 million which is earned on the 5th day of the league year. His cap figure is $23.55 million.
Finally in 2026 he has a $19.19 million base salary and a $19.7 million cap charge.
In each year of the contract he can earn up to $510,000 in per game bonuses. There are Pro Bowl bonuses in 2022, 2023, and 2024 that can increase the value to $99.25 million.
Overall this is, as I mentioned earlier, a strong deal for Leonard. He will rank at the top of the NFL among off the ball linebackers in annual contract value at $19.7M per year, about $700,000 more per year than the next closest player.
His $52.5 million in injury protection is $1.5 million higher than CJ Mosley’s with the Jets which may be the most impressive part of the contract. No other player had a paper guarantee of more than $40.5 million other than Mosley.
The $33 million in full guarantees at signing are second in the NFL to Mosley’s $43 million, though getting over $30 million is a new benchmark.
A $20 million signing bonus is the highwater mark among current linebackers.
The first year cash earnings of $26.9M will top Deion Jones’ prior high of $25.75M.
The three year value can reach of $59.25 million is also a market high and could reach $60 million if he continues his Pro Bowl streak.
The contract builds nicely on the recent record setting Fred Warner extension and follows a similar pattern in the cash structure of the deal. I would expect the next top linebacker to top the $20 million per year mark even if that will require a battle over a team not wanting to be the first to move the needle.
The extension avoids any headaches caused by the franchise tag and the large cap charges that could come with it if they needed to use it in 2022 and 2023. As is typical for a franchise player the two year cash is worth more than two projected tags, but that provides the Colts with more cap certainty while also making sure they have their guy for the third year at an affordable cost.
As far as downside possibilities go, the 2022 and 2023 seasons are virtually guaranteed based on the structure of the contract and the vesting dates on the salary. 2024 would be the first season Indianapolis could look to move on if things went south. Leonard would carry an $8M dead money charge if released before his salary vested. More often than not this position is usually a safer bet that far into a contract, but in a worst case scenario that would be the outcome.
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