During the 2007 offseason the St. Louis Rams knew they needed a solid complementary back for their Pro Bowl starter, Steven Jackson. They looked at the University of Rutgers, who relied on two very different running backs to ride to a surprising 11-2 record. One back was the small and shifty Ray Rice and the other was the versatile Brian Leonard.
The Rams decided to select Leonard in the second round of the 2007 draft and use him in a variety of ways. When Steve Spagnuolo and his regime took over in St. Louis in 2009, he didn't see the value in what Leonard brought to the roster.
The Bengals, on the other hand, did.
On May 7th, 2009 the Bengals dealt backup defensive tackle Orien Harris for Leonard in a player-for-player swap. Leonard's road to making the squad was fodder for the team's stint on "Hard Knocks" that year, but most knew that he was a relative lock to make the final roster. He did and made an impact right away.
"Leaping Leonard" quickly became one of the most clutch players in franchise history and an immediate fan favorite. He was a solid security blanket for quarterback Carson Palmer and contributed heavily in the passing game--both in catching the football and blocking as a back.
Leonard's reputation quickly caught fire with the Bengals faithful in a Week 3 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. He made a clutch reception on a fourth and 10 play on the final drive and then converted a subsequent two-point conversion to help give the Bengals a huge win. The victory over the Steelers that Sunday would set the tone for the rest of the surprising season that the Bengals gave us all.
In his Bengals career, Leonard amassed 339 yards rushing, 631 yards receiving and was a valuable pass protector. What made this trade truly a great deal for the Bengals though, was that they were able to re-acquire Harris (the player who they dealt for Leonard) later in the 2009 season.
Leonard left via free agency this offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.