2012 free-agent scouting reports
This is the 42nd in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: There haven't been many updates on Leonhard, who had to undergo surgery following a season-ending torn patellar tendon in his right knee. According to the (Newark) Star-Ledger, Leonhard's agents spoke with the Jets midway through the season, and the team said it would wait until the end of the campaign to open talks. "There's a business side of football, but we know Jimmy is a tremendous player," head coach Rex Ryan said on Dec. 12. "And the thing about Jim is, I know he's the hardest working guy around, so I think this is a setback. This is not going to be the end for Jim Leonhard." Leonhard, a seven-year veteran, suffered the injury when he was tackled after making an interception in the team's Week 14 win over the Chiefs. The previous year, Leonhard, 29, had a rod placed through his fractured tibia, an injury he suffered during a collision in practice on Dec. 3, 2010.
Notes: In 13 starts last season, Leonhard had 48 tackles, one for a loss, one interception and six passes defensed. He also had nine punt returns for 83 yards (9.2 avg.). He began his career in 2005 with the Bills and spent three seasons in Buffalo. He played for the Ravens, and Ryan, in 2008, starting 13 games and recording 69 tackles. His most productive year came in 2009, when Leonhard started all 16 games and totaled 76 tackles, 2½ sacks, five passes defensed and one interception. In the past two seasons combined, the Jets have a 17-7 record with Leonhard in the lineup and are 4-7 without him, including playoffs.
Positives: Leonhard is the captain of the Jets' defensive backfield, calling out the signals and making sure everyone is in the right place. He has great instincts and is a high-effort, smart player whom Ryan trusts to be in position and not make mistakes. Leonhard, who doesn't turn 30 until late November, is still in his prime.
Negatives: Coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries and surgeries, Leonhard's health and durability are a big concern. He lacks size (5-8, 188 pounds) and isn't much of a playmaker, with six interceptions and two forced fumbles in seven seasons.
Risk factor: Moderate-to-high. With plenty of veteran free agents to address, the Jets likely do not have Leonhard very high on their priority list, especially considering his recent injury history. The team has a lot of respect for Leonhard and the leadership he brings to the secondary, but safety is a position of need for the Jets and it's possible they draft one high in April. Any team interested in Leonhard would have to take a close look at his health before making an investment. He is hardworking and there isn't much doubt he can return to the field, but the injury risk is there, especially for someone who is already lacking size for his position. Leonhard likely won't be asking for top dollar, so the financial risk wouldn't be high for a suitor, or the Jets, should they bring him back.