Andrew Luck is about to become the wealthiest quarterback in the NFL, but is that the best move for the Indianapolis Colts?
According to team owner Jim Irsay, the Colts are about to give Andrew Luck a shocking amount of money. Estimates place that number somewhere above $20 million per season, but there are signs that it could balloon to much higher based on some other upcoming contracts.
Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler are both free agents and reports indicate they could make $15-20 million a season. Cousins had a great finish to his season with Washington, but has also been a turnover machine for much of his career. Osweiler started seven games this season and played fairly well, but didn’t do anything to make one believe he’s worth anywhere near $20 million.
So with this potentially inflated market for quarterbacks (the demand in the NFL will always outweigh the supply), what does it mean for Luck’s upcoming deal? Does Irsay offer him $21-plus million a year? Five of the finest car dealerships on the west side? A partial stake in the franchise?
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks the Colts should just offer Luck a blank check, and let him fill in the amount. Barnwell is going through the top five moves every team should make and this is his approach on Luck’s contract:
"1. Hand Andrew Luck a blank contract, and let him fill in the terms.Not figuratively — literally. Hand Andrew Luck a contract signed by Jim Irsay, Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano, whoever else has to look it over, whatever. Just leave the terms of the deal blank, and let Luck fill them in. The Colts can’t afford to let Luck go, and their best chance of getting him to take a below-market deal might be to try to guilt him into taking less money (also knowing he’s smart enough to not wreck their cap from a team-building standpoint). No professional team has followed the Radiohead pay-what-you-want model for “In Rainbows.” This is the time to start."
Barnwell is right: the Colts can’t afford to let Luck go. They don’t want to turn into the Browns. The Colts have become more reliant on Luck over the past four years than they probably ever were on Peyton Manning. Had Luck been healthy all season, the Colts win the division easily.
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Realistically, there is no way the Colts actually do this. But if they did, it would border on genius. If Luck goes too big with his contract, he’d not only upset his teammates but also the fans as well who would view him as selfish.
The Colts are going to have to strike a balance between what Luck deserves and what won’t hamstring the team. Luck should go into negotiations asking how the front office is going to make this team better and come away with a clear plan for success. The past four years have basically been “Luck heroics-or-bust” and 2015 proved that is sustainable.
One of the big differences for Luck’s contract is going to be the guaranteed money he gets. Quite frankly, he could get a 100-percent guaranteed deal and no one should bat an eye at it. Luck is going to make a ton of money, and Ryan Grigson is going to have to find a way to build an effective roster without as much cash to throw around.
Barnwell had some other interesting ideas for the Colts like cutting nearly everyone from last year’s free agent spending spree (completely co-sign on that). He wants them to bring back Adam Vinatieri (duh) and Jerrell Freeman, which we discussed earlier today. Barnwell made a couple other suggestions for free agents they could pick up, but those moves will largely depend on who the Colts manage to re-sign and where Luck’s contract negotiations go.
The 2016 NFL salary cap is expected to be around $155 million, and with just $133 million on the books right now the Colts will have some wiggle room. Luck is set to make just over $16 million this year, but it’s the last time he’ll have a contract worth less than $20 million a year for the foreseeable future.