The Indianapolis Colts shocked the world when they released three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard on November 21st. The linebacker started the first nine games of the season for the 6-5 Colts, and while he wasn’t playing up to his old standard, he was still a solid starter. However, with his role decreasing, Indianapolis decided to part ways with the veteran in a cost-cutting move. While this served as yet another reminder of the cold-hearted nature of the NFL, the silver lining is that it gave Leonard a chance to sign with a true contender.
If the season ended today, the Indianapolis Colts would be in the playoffs. However, you don’t need me to tell you that a team led by Gardner Minshew will probably not be holding a Super Bowl trophy at the end of the year. Shaquille Leonard has spent the past few weeks visiting teams to try and find an ideal match for the remainder of the season. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the linebacker is currently torn between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, two divisional foes with arguably the two best rosters in the league.
Two key free-agent decisions loom for two decorated players. Both former Colts’ LB Shaquille Leonard and former Cardinals TE Zach Ertz are free agents, and both are likely to have new homes in the next 48 or so hours, per sources. Leonard is considering the Cowboys and Eagles,…
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 3, 2023
REPORT: Cowboys, Eagles Battling For Shaquille Leonard
This report makes sense for a lot of reasons, with the main one being that both of these teams are serious contenders with real weaknesses at the linebacker position. While neither team has a bad defense by any stretch of the imagination (Thursday Night Football’s shootout notwithstanding), there is no such thing as a perfect roster, and both teams could more help in the middle of the defense.
The Dallas Cowboys lost Leighton Vander-Esch to a season-ending injury earlier in the season. While there is still plenty of star power on this defense, they have yet to find an adequate replacement for their former first-round pick. Rashaan Evans isn’t getting the job done, and the present-day version of Shaquille Leonard would be an ideal fit for the role. The Cowboys, currently 9-3, have all-but punched their ticket to the postseason and could even win the division if the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles slip down the stretch. Dak Prescott is playing like an MVP, and the time is now for this team to finally make a long-awaited deep postseason run.
The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, have historically ignored the linebacker position during Howie Roseman’s tenure as general manager. A deep believer in positional value, Roseman’s roster-building philosophy revolved around filling the middle linebacker position last. While that has largely served him well, it does mean that there is a clear weak point in an otherwise formidable defense. This is especially true now that Nakobe Dean is done for the season.
The Eagles and Cowboys are in similar situations. There is a very real chance that Prescott and Jalen Hurts finish first and second in MVP voting, and it appears as though these two teams are on a collision course for a playoff battle. Only time will tell which team emerges from the battle, but this should be a fascinating race between divisional foes and long-time rivals. Assuming the money is equal, it’s anyone’s guess which side Shaquille Leonard ends up on.