The Colts have made it official locking up linebacker Darius Leonard to a five year extension worth $99.25 million according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The #Colts & All-Pro LB Darius Leonard agree to terms on a blockbuster 5-year, $99.25M contract extension to make him the highest paid ILB, sources say. He gets $20M per year over the 1st 3 years. The deal, done by @MalkiKawa & Ethan Lock, includes $52.5M guaranteed. ? ? ?— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 8, 2021
The contract sounds as if it will hit at least three milestones. The $19.85 million per year will make him the highest paid player at the position, topping the $19.005 million per year figure earned by Fred Warner of the 49ers, who signed a deal just a few weeks ago. His $52.5 million in injury protection will surpass the $51.5M in injury guarantees received by CJ Mosley of the Jets. Finally his $60 million three year total will surpass Warner’s $58.725.
It is possible that the effective value of the contract will be a bit cheaper than reported depending on whether or not the Colts acknowledged the 17th game on the schedule this year. They did not as part of the Braden Smith extension. That would not change where he ranks on the three metrics above, but it would bring the three year effective value under the $60M number which I’m sure was a key target.
Leonard’s deal should set the stage for the first $20 million a year linebacker to be signed within the next two seasons. The Mosley contract was the real springboard for the position in 2019 which led to Bobby Wagner moving the market to $18M a year a few months later and now Warner and Leonard earning over $19 million a year two years later. Currently linebacker and safety are the two positions that have yet to break the $20 million a year barrier.
We have seen this kind of salary growth years ago at linebacker and eventually watched it creep back down due to a lack of return on the overall results of the team. It will be interesting as the prices increase if a similar pullback occurs. Now this is a different approach as the expensive linebackers right now are players who are considered more coverage players than in the past where being a vocal leader and tackle monster was more than enough to get a big deal. In that respect these players may have more of an impact on the modern NFL approach.
As we get more details on the contract we will update the salary cap figures for Leonard.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.