Could Andrew Luck be the first year-to-year franchise quarterback?


On one hand, Colts owner Jim Irsay wants to give quarterback Andrew Luck a “shocking” contract by July 4. (Irsay probably should wait until July 5, based on what happened last July 4.) On the other hand, Irsay has called out Luck for not adequately protecting himself on the field, in part by not sliding.

Assuming there’s a method to Irsay’s remarks (and, yes, that could be reach), Irsay could be trying to point out to Luck the value of trading in the injury risk for long-term financial security that would be less than what he can earn if he chooses to make the unconventional move of playing on a year-to-year basis.

For this year, the final season of his rookie contract, Luck will make $16.155 million. In 2017, the Colts would have to use the exclusive franchise tag to keep another team from trying to pilfer him in return for a pair of first-round picks.

This year, the exclusive franchise tender for quarterbacks would be $24.89 million (pending future developments before late April, like the reduction of Drew Brees’ $30 million cap number via a new deal). Let’s assume, for this demonstration, that it will be $25 million in 2017.

So by avoiding a career-ending injury or a significant regression in his play during the 2016 season, Luck will make $41.155 million over the next two years. Then, if he avoids a career-ending injury or a significant regression in his play during the 2017 season, Luck will make a 20-percent raise over $25 million (i.e., $30 million). That’s $71.155 million over three years.

Then, if he avoids a career-ending injury or a significant regression in his play during the 2018 season, he’ll make a 44-percent raise over $30 million in 2019 (i.e., $43.2 million). That’s $114.355 million over four years.

Then, Luck hits the open market in 2020. At the age of 30. With $114.355 million (after taxes and fees) in hand and an opportunity to become the first healthy franchise quarterback in his prime to become an unrestricted free agent in the history of the National Football League.

What would a team pay Luck at that point? Much of it depends on how high the salary cap climbs by 2020, but would a signing bonus after four more years of cap growth in the range of $60 million be out of the question? If the cap gets to $200 million by 2020, an annual rate of $33 million (more than 50 percent above the current high-water market) would make sense, given that the high-end rate for quarterbacks was $20 million when the cap was $120 million.

Luck, a quirky, non-smart-phone-owning quarterback, may be viewed by some as being too cautious and analytical to walk away from the large bird in the hand that Irsay undoubtedly is offering. But perhaps the more logical and pragmatic approach for a guy like Luck would be to recognize that hardly any quarterback suffers a truly career-ending injury, and that the long-term security that comes from a gigantic contract is overblown and illusory.

Perhaps Luck’s unique wiring makes him the one guy who will be willing to say to ownership, “Thanks but no thanks. I’m taking it a year at a time, until I get a chance to let the market set my value.”

For Luck, simply doing what he has done in four NFL seasons will cause him to earn more than $114 million until hits the real jackpot. That’s a win-win for Luck, who likewise use a chunk of his ongoing earnings to ensure that he’ll get his gigantic payday from an insurance company, if he ends up suffering a truly career-ending injury.

61 responses to “Could Andrew Luck be the first year-to-year franchise quarterback?

  1. Could the Vikings be the first team to never win a Championship……I would say we are on a solid pace with 55 years of failure! Bridgewater is not the answer, but maybe if we had a guy like Luck things could be looking up.

  2. The suggestion that Andrew Luck doesn’t already have financial security based on his $22 million rookie contract is an insult to all of the fans who scrape by on $10/hr or less. Nobody wants to see him get hurt, but appealing on the basis of “financial security” is ludicrous and proves just how far out of touch Irsay really is.

  3. The thing that Irsay has a point about though is that Luck needs to protect himself better when he’s out there. He’s better throwing it than he is running it.

  4. the way Grigson has improved the offensive line during your tenure, tell the Colts (whom I root for) that you want to be traded, for your own health…you deserve better…Grigson is the worst GM ever…

  5. The adverse being, if he continues his regression and throwing, on average, a pick a game(and subsequently, never winning anything deep in the playoffs), they could just let him go.

    Which isn’t inconceivable in the slightest. Consider the Broncos this year, spread the wealth around and take the emphasis off the QB. As opposed to some of these joker franchises who go all in on 1/24th of their roster and go nowhere, like the Saints, Giants, Packers, Chargers, Cowboys, Ravens, ect. Just look at the gamble of putting it all on one guy, I think the NFL will move away from this concept in the future, the now disproven notion that you need an elite QB to win a Super Bowl.

  6. Andrew Luck doesn’t carry a smart phone?

    Guess the NFLPA must have sent out a memo reminding all that, even though it’s not allowed under the CBA, Goodell can have your cellphone whenever he wants – or it’s a 4 game suspension now

    Ironic seeing how Goodell himself refused to give up his phone when the Ray Rice investigators demanded it

  7. ^grow up with the $10 per hour comments. If you can’t handle grown up discussion, go to the Disney forum.

    Luck would be smart to go with this approach. The only risk is there is a danger of him becoming a carpetbagger if the colts lose and decide to invest the $40M in a cheaper qb and 3-4 really good players. Ie the Denver / Seattle approach. If he wants to be a lifelong colt, this is something to consider. Then you give in a bit to make it happen.

    do the math, give the team a slight discount and sign the mega 12 year $330M contract with $175M guar. It will look cheap by year 8

  8. 17-2 vs AFCS

    21-21 vs everyone else (and not many of those wins could really be called “elite”)

    Yea..That’s worth 30 mil… If he truly wants to be the next Manning, with a career of one and dones.

  9. As opposed to some of these joker franchises who go all in on 1/24th of their roster and go nowhere, like the Saints, Giants, Packers, Chargers, Cowboys, Ravens.
    What are you talking about? The teams you mentioned won 5 out of the last 9 SBowls. Throw in NEngland and Pittsburgh, who also have elite QB’s, it’s 7/9. It’s still all about the QB, unless you have an historically good defense, like the 2000 Ravens, Seattle a couple of yrs ago and the Broncos last year. That’s even harder to come by than an elite QB.

  10. modern day Einstein,

    you are nuts. most teams without an elite qb go nowhere. the teams that do are the exception and have great non-QB components to their team, usually a top ranked defense. they are very few and far between as well…very difficult to construct.

    indy letting luck go would be the biggest nfl personnel gaffe in modern times. and would spiral them into into a decade of mediocrity if not longer.

    they have the QB. their inability to go deeper into the playoffs is due to not building around luck. that is grigson’s fault.

  11. I’m banking on Luck’s character to never do this. If you look at this kid closely, he’s not a diva and is a really smart and classy individual. He is low key and not big into social media. I think he wants to win and will try to do what is right for the Colts…move on, nothing to see here.

  12. How does the thinking alter when you factor in a quality QB (think Brady) who is willing to take less and have a higher quality team that WINS?

    Depends upon the system being played first of all and then, a QB that is smart enough to figure that he can easily live off his still multi-million dollar annual salary and enjoy the results.

  13. Pretty obvious Luck doesn’t want to be stuck in Indiana. This is a world experienced young man who grew up living in Europe, educated in California where his girlfriend still lives, and now he’s stuck in one of the – well, let’s just say backwards instead of hateful area of the country. He clearly doesn’t want any part of setting roots there the same way Peyton Manning wanted no long term connection to that place. Who could blame them?

  14. How about a reunion with Bruce Arians? Can you imagine Luck with a competent coach, a developer of QBs, on a solid team with elite ownership & front office? How much more desirable must that be over playing for Irsay and that idiot GM in Indy? Play it out Andrew, become a free agent, and go wherever you please. He’s about the last guy on the planet that needs $100m+ for “security”. He’s probably already made 20x more than he’ll ever spend in his entire life.

  15. He sure did not look a QB worthy of such indirect praise last season. The truth is that even prior to last season he was not a quality QB when playing teams outside of the historically inept AFC South.

  16. I’m pretty good with math and taxes. How does a guy turn a gross income of 114mm into the same number “after” taxes? Even if he has all sorts of creative deductions he’s looking at 40% income tax and 7% FICA, leaving his adjust gross income around 75mm.

    Your taxman please!

  17. Articles about the franchise tag here are always out of touch with reality. The weird and wrong assumptions the articles are always built on is that free agents can always get a long-term contract AT LEAST equal to the franchise tag in the first year with 20% escalators for each year there after (meaning that year 3 would be at least 44% more than the dollars paid under the franchise tag in year 1).

    This has never happened. No team has ever been willing to offer such a contract. The Lions let Ndamukong Suh leave as a free agent instead of doing what this article suggested, and while Suh got a big contract it was WAY below the multiple years of 20% escalators that the article says free agents get or can get. Never happens. No team has ever been willing to pay a player at that level. No player playing at a player of the year level has ever gotten such a long-term contract offer. Not Aaron Rodgers. Not Drew Brees. Not Calvin Johnson. Not Charles Woodson. Not Clay Matthews. Not Tom Brady. Not Peyton Manning. Not JJ Watt. Etc.

  18. For those who somehow still believe you need an elite QB, I present the following…

    If you combine the records of teams who have QBs they pay as elite QBs(comprising 15-20% of the entire salary cap who are not stop gaps nor necessarily in the twilight of their career(so no Peyton Mannings nor Alex Smith types, and no Brady because he proves my point and is paid vastly under market price because he wants a team around him); Pitt, Balt, Diego, NYG, Dallas, GB, Det, Chi, Carolina, ATL, New O, Arizona(included it just because), you get a combined record of 93-83.

    If you take the top 5 “Total” defenses (1. Den, 2. Sea, 3. Hou, 4. NYJ, 5. Zona) you get a record of 51-26. Thats with Peyton/Brock, Russell, Whoever the hell played QB in Houston, Fitz, and Carson Palmer. Look at that list… Let it bounce around the walls of your head, the NFL is shifting, remember the game of baseball? You needed hitting in the 90s, now the game is all about pitching and defense, and defense wins championships.

  19. He’ll wait and see where Jim Harbaugh will end up after he wins back to back national championships at Michigan. That’ll be Luck’s next destination.

  20. Nobody ever lets a franchise QB hit the market. Every year someone says so and so will be a Fa in his prime and it never happens. Brees wouldn’t have walked if they didn’t have Rivers

  21. Given the current CBA, etc., this kind of thing is inevitable.
    Personally, I’m waiting for the first players “strike” not just against management, but an individual team like New Orleans that decides they’ve had enough of Drew Brees and his greed.

  22. The value of a franchise QB can readily been seen when you look at the Vikings. They never had one (not counting Favre because he was on the down slope of his career) and they never won a Superbowl. Coincidence? I think not.

  23. Nice cherry picking of facts to fit an argument. Including Baltimore and Dallas record, even though their QB’S were out for the year. And, Oh, I think I’ll just throw out Brady. The Super Bowl record speaks for itself. It’s a QB league and that’s all there is to it.

  24. @donttouchmyjunk
    FYI- Your statement about Peyton Manning not wanting “no long term commitments to that place”, referring to Indianapolis is just plain wrong. Maybe you haven’t heard about one of the best pediatric hospitals in the country in Indianapolis called Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital. Stop in there sometime and ask the doctors, nurses and the kids about his commitment to PMCH and see what their answer is.

  25. Nice cherry picking of facts to fit an argument. Including Baltimore and Dallas record, even though their QB’S were out for the year. And, Oh, I think I’ll just throw out Brady. The Super Bowl record speaks for itself. It’s a QB league and that’s all there is to it.

    There is no cherry picking and there is no argument. I am making a point and it is flying way over your head, way over the wall, and clear of the stadium into the parking lot… sigh… ok let me try to be concise here.

    My point is that Baltimore and Dallas PAY Tony Romo and Joe Flacco crazy money and they, respectively, own the 4th and 6th picks in this years draft.

    That is my entire point. You go all in with one guy and you own the 4th and 6th picks in the draft.

  26. If Irsay was smart he would let him go for two #1s.

    If I remember he said a few years ago it’s better to not pay one person all the money and spread it around a team. The reason he let Peyton go. He felt he was short changed many Super Bowls and couldn’t provide enough talent around Peyton due to the large payment required by his QB at the time.

    The league will eventually smarten up and and figure it out that paying one or two players in the 20 million plus yearly contracts will suffocate them and keep them from competing.

    This is why drafting is that much more important now then ever. You get them for 3-5 years and can franchise for a year or two for a lot less then guaranteeing large amounts of money. Then let someone else pay them or trade for picks with the hopes you are continuing to hit on draftees that are younger hungrier and cheaper every year.

    Teams are built through the draft and must realize they have 5-7 years of their best then age takes over and very few get better just older. Draft picks and CFA guys who will play for peanuts want to sell out and make teams when you visit rosters. You could count 5 sometimes 7/8 undrafted free agents on teams . Nearly 20% of the roster. Teams can flip rosters every 4-5 years with their picks kept and CFA. I would put money into scouts and coaches that can produce like college does. They get 3-4 years and the good ones (Saban, Meyer) produce and don’t worry when they leave. Their is always room for one more.

    Elway should cut his loss thank him for the ring and trade him. He drafted Ray, Barrett played well at times and still has Ware. His coaches can develop as we have seen so bet low and hope for high. Isn’t that what teams do already, no one knows what they are getting other then speculation.

  27. Luck would be smart to wait it out. Yes he throws a bad pick once in awhile. So did BFarvre. Luck’s last full year was 4761 yrds, 40 TDs, 18 INTS and a 96.5 rating. Yet, the GM refuses/is unable to fix the OLine/RB position/defense. WR in the 1rst rnd. What a joke. Luck should give them time to fix it year to year, and if they don’t, walk and let the bidding begin.

  28. He will get roughly 28,000,000 a year because that is 18 percent of the salary cap and when your the franchise QB and if the GM has a brain in his head then he wont go above 18 percent. He will be the highest paid player ever but it will not be any higher then the new standard of what elite QB’s get.

  29. Modern Day Einstein says:
    Mar 26, 2016 12:43 PM

    That is my entire point. You go all in with one guy and you own the 4th and 6th picks in the draft.

    The more valid point would be you go all in with one guy and he goes down you end up owning the 4th and 6th picks in the draft. Your initial point was well taken in some respects, defense is certainly once again on the rise. However by excluding Manning, Smith and Brady’s teams from your first group yet discounting the injuries to Romo and Flacco

  30. Thanks for making my point. If you have a top of the line QB, you’re a SB contender. Even Dallas w/Romo. If your QB goes down, you ain’t winning squat. Unless you have an historic D.

  31. j0esixpack says:

    Guess the NFLPA must have sent out a memo reminding all that, even though it’s not allowed under the CBA, Goodell can have your cellphone whenever he wants – or it’s a 4 game suspension now

    The Deflator agrees

  32. If Luck has a lick of common sense he will refuse to play any longer in Indy for any price and will demand to be traded or cut. He will never win a SB with Grigson and Irsay in charge.

  33. It’s been the same for years that teams don’t need a Hall of Fame QB to win the Super Bowl.

    The Ravens (first Super Bowl) and the Buccaneers both won Super Bowls with very forgettable QBs (the Ravens even dumped their starting QB after the Super Bowl). The Seahawks won the SB and made it back based on a tremendous defense and a good to very good but not great QB.

    The Patriots Super Bowl winning teams have generally had dominant defenses. The Colts Super Bowl winning team with Peyton Manning had by far the best defense of any Colts team with Manning as QB.

    The 49ers came within 4 points of winning a Super Bowl with a great defense and Colin Kaepernick at QB.

    There have been some great QBs who have won Super Bowls in the past 15 years, but they generally had great teams around them. None of them carried a mediocre team to a Super Bowl win. Manning’s Colts, Brady’s Patriots, Roethlisberger’s Steelers, Brees’s Saints, Manning’s Giants all had very strong defenses.

    There are many paths to winning a Super Bowl. The Ravens (under Trent Dilfer), the Buccaneers, and now the Broncos this year show that a team with a very dominant defense can win a Super Bowl even while having bad or even awful QBs. The teams that win Super Bowls are generally not one dimensional. They usually have strengths on offense, defense, and special teams.

  34. I left out the Packers’s Super Bowl winning team with Aaron Rodgers. Great QB, but they also had Clay Matthews, the defensive player of the year, and a total of 3 All-Pros on their defense.

  35. A whole lot of rambling for something you have absolutely no clue about what will happen.

    Good try. Stop trying to convince yourself that you’re the smartest guy in the room.

    You’re not, that’s why you write articles instead of working in an NFL front office.

  36. Take 2 years of the money and insure yourself against injury, then walk away from it all while you can.

  37. This won’t happen. By 2019, Luck would take up at least 20% of the team’s cap by himself and that is not a recipe for team success, nor does the Colts’ front office have the creativity to defy the odds.

  38. It would be nice to see Luck leave Indy and complete the dissolution of the franchise. Irsay never deserved the good fortune, and his current GM is an idiot.

  39. truthinesshurts says:
    Mar 26, 2016 11:34 AM
    Irsay should go on a binge and sign Luck to a $1 Trillion contract.
    Now there’s an idea. Irsay can expense it and live off the taxes he saves.

  40. What is it about Midwest US NFL owners? Always outclassed… always.

    The rest of the world is shaking their head at you Jimmy……….

    … a statue?? REALLY? Dumb.

  41. Any idea what an insurance policy like that would cost? I’m no actuary but it seems like the odds of a career-ending injury are pretty high for a football player so I’d think the policy itself would have to cost a ton to be profitable for the insurer.

  42. 6 years 120 million, 99 percent paid upon signing. Minimal yearly payments and the 118 million dollar signing bonus would spread the value of the contract evenly over 6 years; Luck benefits from the time value of money and zero injury risk.

  43. Poor Luck. Gotta feel for him. Seems like a good guy and a franchise QB. He’s rolling the dice with Grigson and Irsay. Grigson, thankfully, should only be a short term hinderance. Clueless Irsay is whole other issue. Yikes.

  44. Isn’t this the exact position Kirk Cousins is in? Drafted in the same year as Luck (but Cousins has no 5 year option since he was a 4th round pick), but Kirk Cousins is already playing on the tag this year (~$20M).

  45. If I were Luck I would do everything in my power to become an unrestricted Free Agent. He needs to go play for Gary Kubiak or Sean Payton or Adam Gase..

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