Before an injury-riddled 2015 season, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck started 48 straight regular season games to start his career. Owner Jim Irsay and head coach Chuck Pagano have both expressed concern about Luck exercising some caution in order to keep himself healthy, but no matter what it’s been a foregone conclusion the 2012 No. 1 overall pick will be a Colt long-term.
2016 is the final year of Luck’s rookie contract, and he’s due to make $16.155 million. A looming contract extension could make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league starting in 2017, but the lack of talent around him in Indianapolis could make Luck think twice about committing for the long haul.
In late March, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk laid out a case for Luck to go year-to-year under the franchise tag. I’ll offer the essential bullet points of the argument.
The exclusive franchise tender for quarterbacks this year is $24.89 million, so Florio assumed $25 for 2017 as a nice, round example. In 2018, Luck would be in line for a 20 percent raise, to $30 million, and a 44-percent bump in 2019 to $43.2 million. Over four years, counting 2016, that’s more than $114.3 million while going year-to-year.
The most important and interesting aspect of the scenario Florio offered is the last one. Luck would hit the open market in 2020, at 30 years old heading toward his age-31 season. A quarterback in his prime hitting unrestricted free agency is unheard of, especially in today’s NFL where franchise quarterbacks are locked up contractually until they are no longer considered useful by their team. Quite frankly, Luck’s contract numbers in that open market scenario are hard to imagine right now.
Florio’s entire concept may be rendered moot soon, if only because Luck may want to remain loyal to the Colts and they will surely come with a big contract offer. I don’t quite buy Luck’s quirky personality playing a role in any decision, but the idea of setting a unique precedent and betting on himself over the next few years could appeal to him.
Money should not be a huge factor for Luck, in terms of trading certainty for going year-to-year. It makes perfect sense to see how the Colts’ roster is built up before committing long-term, so if Luck wants to he can put serious pressure on general manager Ryan Grigson.