FRISCO - The Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday executed a “stunning” move with their release of three-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Shaquille Leonard.
And no, it wouldn’t be “stunning” at all if the Dallas Cowboys began a post-waivers-clearance pursuit of the one-time standout who goes by the nickname “The Maniac.”
“I love you guys,” Leonard posted in a message to Indianapolis fans. “I apologize for not bringing that (Super Bowl) trophy back to (the Colts).” …
Which naturally leads to a clue that his justifiable mindset now is about ring-chasing.
There are four Shaq-to-Dallas dots - four reasons for the Cowboys to chase this, really - that are easily connected here. To wit …
1- Leonard has seen his Colts playing time reduced greatly this year, a bad sign. But the three-time Pro Bowler is only 28; has he really fallen off a cliff?
2- In this case, it doesn’t have to be about the money. Leonard’s five-year, $98.5 million contract is set to run through 2026; it seems viable that no team will want to pay him $1 million per game for the rest of this year.
That means he might clear waivers and then move to the most attractive (not just the highest) bidder.
3- Are the Cowboys “attractive”? Their defensive system under coordinator Dan Quinn is one Leonard is accustomed to. Shaq’s former Colts teammate Stefon Gilmore would surely play recruiter. And Dallas is at 7-3 a legit contender.
4- Is there a Dallas need? Leighton Vander Esch is on IR, his career in some jeopardy. Damone Clark has been holding down the fort with help from converted safety Markquese Bell. And “signed off the couch” vet Rashaan Evans is now here to help, too.
But the run-stopping Leonard’s credentials - probably also attractive to linebacker-needy Philadelphia and Buffalo - trump theirs.
NFL Network has labeled the release of Leonard “stunning.” And we will pitch in here: If the Cowboys make a run at Leonard, it really wouldn’t be “stunning” at all.