Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is likely going to sign the biggest contract in NFL history. But how much do the particulars matter for him and the team?
Andrew Luck and the Colts are hoping to have a contract extension worked out before training camp begins in late July. The deal will undoubtedly make Luck the highest paid QB in the NFL for the time being and set the standard for the top tier for years to come.
One of the most contentious portions of contract negotiations is over the guaranteed money. In case you didn’t know, NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed meaning a player can be cut before the contract expires at less cost to the team. You’ll see this happen often as players are cut due to poor performance, injuries, or they just became too expensive.
This is one of the reasons players will hold out or demand a new contract right after they signed one, they’re trying to maximize their value while they have some shred of leverage. It may not seem right to the average man, who would look at say $5 million a year and be plenty happy. But players in the NFL have an average career length of just 3.3 years and those who do stick in the league really only have about 10 years of peak earning potential.
Many of these players are hoping to cram an entire lifetime (one that could include extensive medical expenses later in life) of earnings into a 10-15 year window. The average player has to strike while the iron is hot.
But Luck isn’t an average player.
He is a very talented quarterback in a league where the position is at a premium. Luck is going to break the bank because: A) he’s incredibly talented with the potential to be at the top of the NFL; B) he has a responsibility to the players that come after him to take a big contract; and C) there is no middle market for QBs, they are either at the top or bottom of the pay scale.
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We’ve seen a number of quarterback contracts in the past few years that seemed ostentatious at first, but once the numbers were broken down it was clear that they were very team friendly (read: financially easy to cut after a year or two). Such was the case with Colin Kaepernick, who will make nearly $16 million this year, but would cost $19 million to cut. But in 2017, he’ll make $19 million but cost just under $5 to cut.
Deals like this make sense for a player who has shown potential but hasn’t put everything together yet. So far, that Kaepernick deal with the 49ers hasn’t worked out so well.
For the Colts, they know what they’re getting in Luck. It is easy to forget that just two seasons ago he led the league in touchdown passes, and had the second most TDs through through three seasons by a QB in NFL history.
The only concern for the Colts is injuries, but 2015 aside Luck doesn’t have an extensive injury history. The ribs, shoulder, and kidney were all isolated incidents and not symptoms of chronic issues or being “injury prone.” There is nothing to suggest any of those issues will plague him in the future and if he has similar problems, it will be the result of something new.
Mike Chappell at Fox59 sat down with Joel Corry, a former agent, to discuss the contract issues surrounding Luck and the Colts. Corry says the biggest issue is how much of the contract is guaranteed, followed by what that number would be and then the length of the deal.
"“That’s going to be the over arching issue. The guaranteed money and how front-loaded they make it,’’ Corry said.“I’m looking to blow well past the $70 million in overall guarantees and I’d want at least $60 million of that fully guaranteed at signing.’’“From Luck’s side, you don’t want to do more than five new years,’’ he said. “I would want to do four, kind of like (Seattle quarterback) Russell Wilson did. “If you are a good quarterback, you want to get as many bites of the apple as possible and reap the benefits of the changing marketplace.’’"
Colts owner Jim Irsay has made it clear that he intends to keep Luck in Indianapolis for as long as possible. He knows the alternative would be turning into the Browns and bouncing from one mediocre QB to another.
That, coupled with the team’s almost laughable reliance on their QB the past four years, means Luck has all of the leverage a young superstar could want. At this point, Luck can basically pick out a number and the team will have to find a way to acquiesce. Luck won’t do something ludicrous though, he wants to win and the more money he takes means less for his teammates which means he’ll get even less help down the line.
That means he’ll want a higher guaranteed number and honestly, the Colts could give him a 100-percent guaranteed contract and it really wouldn’t be an issue. At least not for the Colts and Luck. Every other team in the league would be upset with Irsay, as the Colts would set a dangerous precedent with fully-guaranteed quarterback contracts that every other QB in the country would demand.
Either way, Luck is more likely than not to see out the terms of his future deal. While he may want the majority of it guaranteed, the fact remains that he’ll either play out the contract or renegotiate an extension before it expires. Luck will make is $100 some odd million dollars one way or another.
Right now, they’re just quibbling over minor details.