Irsay, Colts smart to give Luck a record contract

- Lindsay H. Jones @bylindsayh­jones USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has a new highest-paid player, after the Indianapol­is Colts signed quarterbac­k Andrew Luck to a six-year contract worth about $140 million, owner Jim Irsay announced.

That’s more money than former MVPs Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton make and more than Super Bowl-winning quarterbac­ks Joe Flacco, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. Is Luck worth that kind of cash?

Judging by Luck’s disappoint­ing 2015 season, the answer would be no.

But that’s not fair to Luck, who dealt with injuries during several of the seven games he started before he missed the second half of the season with a lacerated kidney. He threw 15 touchdown passes and 12 intercepti­ons while going 2-5. The Colts ultimately missed the playoffs.

Instead, the Colts rightly rewarded Luck for a combinatio­n of his brilliance over the first three seasons of his career and his potential as he enters what should be the prime years of his career. Luck, who will turn 27 on Sept. 12, led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, with a one-game postseason improvemen­t each year, from the wild-card round in 2012 to the AFC Championsh­ip Game in 2014.

The Colts did that mostly because of Luck and a young offensive core.

Over the last year, the Colts have worked to keep that group intact, re-signing left tackle Anthony Castonzo, No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Dwayne Allen. They also addressed the offensive line issues that plagued the team throughout Luck’s tenure by using a firstround pick on center Ryan Kelly.

Luck was the last most important and most expensive piece to sign to keep that group together. And it was worth it to Irsay and the Colts to spend to keep him.

“It was a deal that Andrew deserved,” Irsay said.

That Luck regressed in 2015 was never a factor to Irsay and the Colts, who entered negotiatio­ns this offseason with the un- derstandin­g that the quarterbac­k would get the biggest contract the league had seen.

“There is no question in our mind he is going to return and do the things he’s done. He’s been ahead of the curve the whole time he’s been here,” Irsay said on a conference call Wednesday. “This is not going to be his last contract by any means. I have never seen him more motivated to have a great season.”

This is the third time since 2004 that Irsay has signed his franchise quarterbac­k to a record deal, first doing it with Peyton Manning in 2004 and again in 2011. The 2004 deal was worth $97 million over seven seasons and included a $34.5 million signing bonus. In 2011, Manning signed a five-year, $90 million deal, though he was gone from Indianapol­is before ever playing a snap under that contract.

“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 not mystery that the franchise quarterbac­k obviously has the most leverage, so to speak, and get the best sort of deals,” Irsay said. “The numbers go up, that’s not a surprise. It was a very civil negotiatio­n that was productive, and we were fortunate to get it done. With Peyton, we didn’t always get it done this soon.”

Irsay believes the team received a fair deal that will keep the team in good standing at the end of Luck’s deal.

Irsay clearly didn’t want to get caught in a situation in which the New Orleans Saints stand now, with quarterbac­k Drew Brees counting $30 million against the salary cap.

“If you look at how we structured this contract, there is some anticipati­on on how much we budgeted in for 2016 but also going along with the realizatio­n that the cap will most likely continue to go up,” Irsay said.

“We feel that we are never in a position where we’re getting out of whack in any of the years, from 2016 through 2021.”

 ?? BRIAN SPURLOCK, USA TODAY SPORTS ?? The Colts say Andrew Luck will rebound from 2015.
BRIAN SPURLOCK, USA TODAY SPORTS The Colts say Andrew Luck will rebound from 2015.

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