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Colts waive three-time All-Pro LB Shaquille Leonard

Three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard's time in Indianapolis is at an end.

The Colts waived the 28-year-old former second-round pick on Tuesday, the team announced.

Leonard said his goodbye to Indianapolis in a social media post.

"Indy, I want to thank you for accepting me and my family with open arms," Leonard wrote. "These past six years has been nothing but incredible! Through the good times and bad time y'all stood by my side. I apologize for not bringing that trophy back to the 317. The energy in Lucas Oil has been nothing but amazing and I thank you for every memory. I'm thankful to play for such an amazing fan base. I love you guys and wish the Colts nothing but the best! Maniac out."

Colts owner Jim Irsay issued the following statement confirming the release.

"Colts Nation will always remember The Maniac's palpable energy on the field with each tackle, interception, punchout, and fumble recovery," Irsay said. "Off the field, he's a servant leader and assisted numerous families in both his hometown and the Indianapolis community. We're thankful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization. We wish him and his beautiful family the best moving forward."

A sideline-to-sideline maven out of South Carolina State, Leonard burst on the scene as a rookie, leading the league with 163 tackles, including 111 solo, and generating four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, eight passes defended, and seven sacks. The linebacker took home AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and was named an All-Pro in his first campaign.

Leonard would continue to gobble up tackles as a patrolman in the middle of the Colts' defense. In his first four seasons, Leonard earned 538 tackles and 15 sacks. A tackling machine and stellar in coverage, Leonard was an ideal linebacker for the modern game and earned himself a five-year, $98.25 million extension in 2021.

Then, injury struck.

Leonard underwent back surgery in the 2022 offseason to correct a nagging injury. He missed the opening of the 2022 season, suffered a concussion and broken nose in his first game back, and eventually reinjured his back, forcing him to miss the end of the season. Leonard played in just three games last season.

In 2023, Leonard still didn't look like his former All-Pro self, missing tackles and seeming a step out of position at times. His playing time dwindled under the new coaching staff. Earlier this month, Leonard became frustrated with his usage.

"They say I don't make enough splash plays, so I guess I'll still be watching for a bit," he said at the time.

Now Leonard will have a chance to prove the Colts wrong.

With about $6.1 million in base salary for the balance of this season and $6.5 million guaranteed for injury in 2024, it's unlikely a team will claim Leonard -- and his contract -- off waivers. If he clears, the linebacker will be a free agent.

Later Tuesday, the Colts signed linebacker Ronnie Harrison to the active roster from their practice squad.

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