The Indianapolis Colts sit in somewhat of an awkward position with the NFL trade deadline less than a week away. With a perfectly average 3-3-1 record, it’s unclear if the Colts should be buyers or sellers.
For some analysts who cover the team, though, moving to start Sam Ehlinger behind center has made the decision for the Colts.
With the unproven commodity at quarterback, Kevin & Query radio host Kevin Bowen of 93.5 The Fan in Indianapolis argued “no one on this [Colts] roster should be untouchable,” including superstars such as linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
“Shaquille Leonard has played just a couple of series this season. Without him, the Colts have missed Leonard’s rare playmaking, but free agent linebackers in Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed have played pretty good football without Leonard,” Bowen wrote. “Would the Colts entertain the thought of trying to move Leonard, and commit to a future with Okereke and/or Speed as they head for free agency?
“The thought is probably lofty, but it’s something to ponder as Leonard’s future as hit some bumpy roads with lingering injuries.”
Leonard’s ‘Bumpy’ Injury History
It somewhat doesn’t feel correct to write Leonard has an injury history. Before this season, he had never missed more than three games in a season.
But he’s played through injuries in the past, and this fall, he’s only been on the field for one half, sitting out six of the first seven games.
Leonard gutted through the 2021 season with pain in his calf and ankle pain in his left leg. Not that fans noticed, as Leonard made his third All-Pro team.
But the superstar linebacker underwent back surgery to fix a nerve causing the pain in his left leg on June 7. He also had ankle surgery last offseason and following his rookie year.
His rehab this year has been slower than anticipated, and then he suffered a concussion and broken nose in his first game back in Week 4.
In his place, Okereke and Speed have played well. They haven’t made Leonard expendable, but they could continue replacing the All-Pro if the Colts decide to sell and add more draft picks for next year.
Leonard’s Short-Term Health
Leonard was cleared to return last week against the Tennessee Titans, but the Colts have taken a cautious approach with the linebacker all season. CBS play-by-play announcer Andrew Catalon said during the telecast that the Colts wanted Leonard to practice another full week before returning.
The linebacker practiced in full on October 26 to begin preparing for the Washington Commanders in Week 8. The Colts will likely update Leonard’s status on either October 28 or 29.
If the Colts have any plans of exploring a Leonard trade, they pretty much have to hope he plays against the Commanders. For the right compensation, teams may overlook Leonard’s surgeries. But not if Leonard can’t contribute now.
Buyers in trades made at the NFL deadline want players who can make an immediate impact. Regardless of how good Leonard is, he can’t do that from the sideline.
Even if he plays, Leonard being healthy for one game might not be enough to convince teams that he’s ready to help down the stretch this season. The NFL trade deadline is November 1.
“Of course, finding a trade partner given Leonard’s awkward injury situation would be a tall hurdle,” wrote Bowen.