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FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a linebacker since they have a clear depth need at that position. They lost third-round rookie DeMarvion Overshown to a torn ACL in training camp, and were left even thinner in the aftermath of losing Leighton Vander Esch for the season due to a neck injury. The Cowboys already allow only 16.8 points per game (the fourth-fewest in the NFL), but they may have lucked into a perfect opportunity to bolster their depth with the Colts waiving Shaquille Leonard on Tuesday. 

The 28-year-old earned three First-Team All-Pro selections (2018, 2020 and 2021) and three Pro Bowl selections (2019-2021) in his first four NFL seasons after being a second-round pick of the Colts in the 2018 NFL Draft out of South Carolina State. He shined immediately, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after leading the NFL in tackles with 163 in 2018. The last couple seasons haven't been as kind to Leonard as an offseason back procedure limited his 2022 season availability to three games. He suited up for the Colts in nine games this season, but Indianapolis didn't see enough to warrant keeping him and his five-year, $98.5 million contract extension on their roster any longer. 

Shaquille Leonard career stats


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Combined Tackles



Tackles for Loss



Forced Fumbles



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* Only player in NFL from 2018-2021 with 300+ combined tackles, 15+ forced fumbles

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have a personal, in-house reference for Leonard in 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Dallas acquired Gilmore in a trade with the Colts this offseason, and the 33-year-old defensive back built a strong connection with Leonard in in his one season with the former All-Pro.  

"I just kind of leave it up to them," Gilmore said Monday when asked about lobbying the front office to sign Leonard. "Obviously he is a great player, and hopefully he'll impact whoever he goes to, but I just try to stay out it. He is a friend of mine, and I check up on him as much as I can."

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones downplayed the team's interest in Leonard on Thanksgiving. 

"We'll see, we'll see," Jones said after the Cowboys rout over Washington on Thanksgiving. "I'm not trying to be coy. I really don't know right now. Contact has been made, but I'm sure every team is assuming that if they are in the hunt, they could have an interest in him. First, we have some questions we need to check on health-wise, things like that. I don't, right now, want to be on that list. I want to go do our homework and do what we should be doing and see if this thing might fit us. We've done no more than that."

Jones also declined to elaborate much on the degree of how he could help his defense if signed.

"I don't know about that," Jones said. "We had a short meeting on that before the game, and we'll see how we do with our evaluation. We'll look at him pretty good. Look at some health things. I know a lot of teams are looking at him. I don't want to give an indication of the degree of our interest with him." 

On Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the team is looking into Leonard. 

"I don't have anything to report on Shaq, but yes, definitely, there's interest," McCarthy said.

 As of Monday, they haven't asked for Gilmore's personal personnel opinion.

"They haven't," Gilmore said when asked if Jones or anyone from the front office asked for his feedback. "I just try to leave that to them. He's a good friend of mine, from South Carolina, so we're from the same state. I just hope he goes somewhere where he can show his skill set, show how great he is.... He impacts the game in a lot of ways. One thing about him is he's very passionate, and he's going to get the ball out. That's one thing about him I really respect. He's always going for the ball."

Leonard was the only player in the NFL with over 300 tackles (538) and 15 forced fumbles (17) during his first four seasons from 2018-2021. It's an impact similar to the one Cowboys two-time First-Team All-Pro pass rusher Micah Parsons provides Dallas currently, albeit in a different role. 

"They're at different positions, but I'm just saying his impact on the field," Gilmore said when asked how Leonard's greatness compares to the level Parsons is playing at today. "I don't know how many forced fumbles he's [Leonard] had in his career [17, the fourth-most in the NFL since 2018], but he's getting the ball out. He's very energetic. He is what a linebacker is supposed to be like."

Dallas could provide Leonard a chance to join a Super Bowl contender with an old friend where he can come in and fill a substantial role for one of the top defenses in the NFL. He will likely visit the Cowboys this week. The Dallas Morning News reports that the official date of said visit has yet to be finalized, but the opportunity to sign Leonard is clearly something Jones is contemplating. He revealed he is having lunch with Leonard on Tuesday. 

"He's been [an] outstanding [player]," Jones said on 105.3FM The Fan in on Dallas on Tuesday, via The Athletic. "We want to check his health. That's what he's doing right now. … This isn't a hard scouting job. … We have a pretty attractive situation for any player because not only of the way we're playing but also the aura of the Cowboys and our fan base and this area."   

Their specific process on how they will go about courting Leonard after that is unclear since McCarthy repeated a vague answer twice at the end of his press conference on Monday when asked about his role in the midseason free agent recruitment process. 

"I think just like anything timing is part of it," McCarthy said. "We definitely have a process in place any time we come across these types of opportunities."