With 6-year, $140M deal, Andrew Luck becomes highest-paid player in NFL history


Andrew Luck signing his extenstion with the Colts (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts via Twitter)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The initial shock wave was expected, but numbing nonetheless.

Quarterback Andrew Luck signed a five-year extension with the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history and ties him to the franchise through the 2021 season at a cost of nearly $140 million. It involves roughly $123 million in “new money’’ – Luck was due a ’16 base salary of $16.155 that has been lowered to $12 million – and essentially includes $87 million in guarantees.

The six-year average ($23.333 million) and guaranteed money are the most in league history. According to owner Jim Irsay, Luck received $47 million simply for scribbling his name on the dotted line.

“Both sides accomplished everything that we wanted to do, and it was a fair deal,’’ Irsay said. “It was a deal that Andrew deserved.’’

The sheer magnitude of the extension figures to be the overriding storyline. Prior to Luck’s new deal, quarterbacks Joe Flacco of Baltimore ($22.1 million per season), Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay ($22 million), Russell Wilson of Seattle ($21.9 million), Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh ($21.85 million) and Eli Manning of the New York Giants ($21 million) were the NFL’s standard bearers in per-season earnings.

Now it’s Luck.

But while supporters and critics will spend the coming days debating the merits of Luck being filthy rich, no one should question the importance of locking up yet another franchise cornerstone.

As Irsay mentioned, “We really like where we’re going.’’

In the past 11 months, he’s signed off on:

  • A five-year, $65 million extension for Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton. He’s signed through 2020.
  • A four-year, $43.6 million extension for left tackle Anthony Castonzo. He’s signed through 2019.
  • A four-year, $29.4 million contract for tight end Dwayne Allen, now a Colts through 2019.
  • A four-year, $10.45 million contract (with a fifth-year option) for center Ryan Kelly, the team’s first-round draft pick. He’s expected to be the stellar center that’s been missing since Luck arrived in 2012.

“Really important that we retained Dwayne Allen, Castonzo and T.Y.,’’ Irsay said. “Those guys are important pillars for our organization.’’

In March 2004, Irsay made another quarterback the highest-paid player in the league. Peyton Manning signed a seven-year, $98 million contract that included a record $34.5 million signing bonus.

Despite the inherent restrictions that accompanied such a contract, the Colts were able to retain elite players around Manning: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Tarik Glenn, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark.

The parallels with Luck are obvious.

“No question,’’ Irsay said. “Having been through multiple deals with Peyton, it’s a big deal when you sit down and start talking face-to-face about your franchise quarterback and getting something done.

“It’s no mystery that the franchise quarterback has the most leverage, so to speak, to get the best sort of deal in just total numbers and guarantees.’’

Irsay indicated retaining Manning and Luck at prohibitive costs actually involved “self sacrifice’’ on the part of the players.

“Some real consideration about making sure we can pay that nucleus of 10-to-12 guys around Andrew like it was around Peyton,’’ Irsay said. “In Peyton’s era, we kept the Freeneys and the Mathises and the Harrisons and the Waynes and the Tarik Glenns.’’

While conceding Luck, 26 and still a few years away from his prime, had serious leverage in negotiations, the Colts also could have applied some pressure.

Remember, Luck is coming off his worst season. He passed for just 1,881 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and missed nine starts with injuries to his right shoulder, ribs and kidney.

“That didn’t factor into the negotiations,’’ Irsay said. “We never suggested it as leverage . . . ‘What about the slow start against Buffalo’ or the injuries. We didn’t go there.

“You look at the total body of work.’’

In his first three seasons, Luck was the unquestioned catalyst in the Colts reaching the playoffs each season with identical 11-5 records. They advanced one step further in the playoffs each season and reached the AFC title game after the 2014 season.

“He’s healthy and there’s no question in our minds that he’s going to return and do the things he’s done,’’ Irsay said. “He’s been ahead of the curve.

“Going back into Peyton and Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison and all those great players’ era, after four years we hadn’t won a playoff game. We hadn’t done the things that we’ve done with Andrew.’’

Luck was traveling and not available for comment.

In a statement released by the team, he said “I am thrilled and excited to continue with this great organization. I am thankful to the Irsay family and Mr. Irsay for providing me with this great opportunity and the trust that they’ve shown in me.

“I can’t wait for this season to start.’’

Irsay noticed Luck’s upbeat disposition during the offseason.

“I’ve never seen him more motivated to have a great season in terms of taking care of himself and working out,’’ he said. “If you can talk about re-doubling your efforts, that fire’s in his eye in a special way.’’

Contract breakdown:

According to Spotrac.com, Luck’s five-year extension is worth $122.97 million and Luck will earn just over $139 million over the next six seasons. It includes a $32 million signing bonus and a 2016 salary cap hit of $18.4 million. He was due a ’16 base salary of $16.155 million, which has been reduced to $12 million.

The contract has base salaries of $12 million this year, $7 million in ’17, $12 million in ’18, $9.125 million in ’19, and $11 million in ’20 and ’21. It also has roster bonuses of $6 million in ’17 and ’18, $12 million in ’19, $11 million in ’20 and $10 million in ’21.

The extension has rolling guarantees based on him being on the roster at the start of each new league year. It basically calls for $87 million in guarantees.

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