My mind says no the Buccaneers shouldn’t, but my heart says there’s a chance.
To the surprise of what seems like everyone, the Colts decided to release LB Shaquille Leonard. Now, after that initial shock wore off, people kind of realized why it happened. The man was due a lot of money, and he was producing at the level that he used to. However, he cleared waivers and is now a FA. Meaning, he can sign with any team.
Now, the first obvious hurdle to overcome in this scenario is if he would even be interested in the team. I actually thought he was a lot older than his 28 based upon the way people talked about him. So, he may still be at the stage of wanting money rather than ring chase. If he were only looking to ring chase, then he probably wouldn’t be interested in the Bucs. Though the Bucs are arguably in one of the better spots to make the playoffs, Leonard wouldn’t exactly move the needle to SB contender.
However, if he were interested in staying around for the long run, the Bucs are a good destination on paper. They have a really young defense which while it has performed well at times, still has growing pains. But there is definitely a lot of promise with the younger guys, especially Calijah Kancey, YaYa Diaby, and even Christian Izien. Leonard could definitely serve as a good locker room leader.
Which then gets into the second hurdle, would the Bucs be interested in him? Shaq Leonard has proven to be a very good player in his career, earning three all-pro nods already. 2021 was one of his best years in terms of turnovers. He managed 8 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions, which is pretty good. he has had over 110 tackles.
There is another reason that the Bucs may want him at some point. It is possible they might lose both Lavonte David and Devin White. While I think they will likely only say good riddance to White, I can’t discount the possibility that David might just hang it up after so many years, even if he seems immortal on the field. If the Bucs do lose one or both, it is imperative they get some veteran to replace them. I don’t love the idea of Sirvocea Dennis and some other draft pick (unless it’s Jared Verse, then it might be ok).
But there is the obvious elephant in the room I have not addressed. There is a reason beside money that Leonard fell through waivers. Nobody trusts right now if he can stay healthy and produce at an elite level. It is a valid concern considering he hasn’t done all that much this season despite playing every game. He only played 3 games last year due to a back injury, and it seems that hampered his production enough that Indy wanted to cut their losses.
While I think it is possible the Bucs pick up Leonard during the season, I think it would be more likely they sign him in the offseason, if he signs with us at all. I think it would likely be a cheaper, one-year “prove-it” deal to see if he can get back to pre-2022 levels of play. Leonard is legit a good player when healthy and if that guy shows up, the Buccaneers would be wise to capitalize on it.
Make sure you check out Devin’s blog at cannoncrunch.wordpress.com.