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NFL AM: Colts Sign Andrew Luck to Monster Extension

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Andrew Luck had been waiting over a year to finally come to terms with the Indianapolis Colts on a contract extension. On Wednesday, his patience came through, proving the wait was worth it.

The Colts announced an agreement with Luck on a six-year contract extension worth a reported $140 million, including $47 million guaranteed at signing. The $23.3 million average annual value on the contract makes Luck the highest paid quarterback annually, surpassing the $22.1 million on Joe Flacco’s deal with the Ravens, signed in March. He’s also got the highest total contact value of any quarterback, far surpassing the 7-year, $126 million deal signed by Jay Cutler with the Bears in 2014. All of it adds up to Luck’s contract being the biggest given to a player in the history of the NFL. Indianapolis believes their franchise quarterback is with that distinction.

“This is an exciting day for the organization and Colts fans around the globe,” owner Jim Irsay said in a statement. “Andrew is the consummate professional, possesses extraordinary talent and is our leader on and off the field. When you consider what this team has accomplished in four seasons with Andrew under center, you cannot help but be thrilled about the future.”

Luck’s contract also contains some injury protections that mean, at worst, he’ll likely make at least $87 million off the deal, which is more than the $65 million Eli Manning is guaranteed in the contract he signed with the Giants last offseason. That’s an important distinction because Luck signs this deal coming off a season in which he missed nine games due to injury, including two to a shoulder injury and seven due to a lacerated kidney.

The Colts expect a healthy Luck back on the field to lead them in 2016, as he did in his first three seasons, when he started all 54 games the Colts played and compiled a 36-18 record. When healthy, he guided the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, including an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2015. However, the team was just 2-5 under his command last year before he bowed out for the season and they finished the campaign 8-8 thanks to a surge late in the year under backup Matt Hasselbeck.

Still, Luck’s value to the franchise can not be understated. Since joining Indianapolis as the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck has managed to ably fill the big shoes left in Indy by future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. While leading the Colts to those three straight playoff appearances, Luck put up often gaudy numbers that ranked him among the league’s best quarterbacks on an annual basis. In his last full healthy season, he lead the league in touchdown passes with 40 and appeared to be adding more to his repertoire by the week.

Of course, the four-year veteran does have his flaws. He’s still a bit mistake-prone and has thrown 55 interceptions in his four seasons, including 12 in just seven games last season. He’s also fumbled 32 times over that span, lowlighted by a league-high 13 during the 2014 season. Ball security is definitely an issue he’ll have to work on to maintain a spot among the league’s elite signal callers and get the Colts back to that ultimate glory that Manning took them to just over 10 years ago.

But at 27 years old, with a dynamic skillset and a world of talent at the league’s most important position, Luck is worth every penny the Colts invested in him on Wednesday, and then some. And it’s quite possible that as the salary cap rises and Luck enters his quarterback prime over the next few years, this deal could be looked at as a bargain for Indianapolis.

FALLOUT FROM THE DEAL

The ink hadn’t even dried on Luck’s contract before we began thinking about what this means for everyone else, particular those to follow at the quarterback position.

Most of the league’s top tier quarterbacks are now locked up through at least the 2020 season, but there are a few high-caliber QBs this could have an impact on. Chief among them might be a guy who came out of the same draft class as Luck but followed a much different path to success: Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cousins is looking at playing the 2016 season under the franchise tag after the Redskins opted to tag him to keep him from hitting the open market following a breakout 2015 campaign. Few believe Cousins has nearly the level of skill of Luck, or that he merits nearly as pricey a contract, but if he plays under the tag this year, Washington would have to pay even more to tag him again, or let him hit the market, where strange things happen and players get overpaid regularly, especially quarterbacks due to the lack of available talent overall at the position.

But Luck’s contract didn’t push the quarterback contract terms through the stratosphere, hurtling toward 10-year deals and $30 million annual values, as some expected it to. Instead, it checked in just a tick above the highest deals ever signed, keeping values moving up at a slow but steady pace. And in terms of guaranteed money, it didn’t come close to the $60 million Ndamukong Suh got from the Miami Dolphins last offseason. In fact, it didn’t even top the $54 million guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers got from the Green Bay Packers in 2013.

That all could be bad news for a guy like Cousins who was looking to cash in on one really strong season. He’s in a position where he’ll now likely have to repeat his 2015 performance and then some to get anywhere near what Luck and some of the other top quarterbacks have received in the last few years.

One other player this deal could impact is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is entering the final year of a five-year, $100 million extension signed in 2012. At 37 years old and still putting up stats that rank him among the league’s best, Brees is likely seeking one more big pay day before he calls it a career. But the Saints are currently in cap hell, thanks in large part to restructures to Brees’ contract that make him a $30 million cap hit for New Orleans in 2016.

The two sides have been looking to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, but Luck’s new deal could complicate that. Could Brees look to get a higher average annual value, knowing that he isn’t likely to get the long-term commitment, at his age, that some of the other top tier quarterbacks have gotten in recent years. How much loyalty does he have left to New Orleans and is he willing to play out the season on his current deal and test the market next offseason, where he could see some eye-popping numbers from desperate and quarterback-needy teams. That situation in The Big Easy is something to watch as we move forward over the next month toward the season and beyond.

Whatever way things go with Cousins, Brees, and their respective teams, the Luck deal is proof that the quarterback market is going to continue its steady rise instead of shooting into the stratosphere. That’s good news for franchises across the league because, with the cap going up, it’s going to give them each a legitimate chance to build a team around their franchise signal caller.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys