As Ryan Tannehill signs a new contract for $US25 million guaranteed and Russell Wilson continues to negotiate a potentially record-breaking deal with the Seattle Seahawks, all is quiet on the Andrew Luck front.
Luck is eligible to negotiate a contract extension with the Colts, but the team has decided to push back talks until at least the summer of 2016. As ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio notes, the Colts have a history of making their quarterbacks play out their entire contracts, so Luck might not actually get a deal until 2017.
This helps their cap situation in the short term. In 2015 he’ll still be playing under his rookie salary of $US3.4 million. In 2016, he’ll make a little over $US16 million on a his fifth-year rookie option — which is still less than he’s worth on the open market. By waiting as long as possible to give him a long-term deal, the Colts also protect themselves against the possibility that he’ll get a career-altering injury in the next two years.
The downside of waiting to give Luck the extension, though, is significant: In all likelihood, Luck is going to be worth much more, and have much more leverage in 2017 than he does now.
Luck is going to be a fascinating test case for how high individual NFL salaries can go.
Salaries for quarterbacks are going through the roof right now. Eight of the NFL’s nine biggest QB contracts in terms of guaranteed money were signed in the last two years. Jay Cutler, of all people, got $US126 million with $US54 million guaranteed. If the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that the price of a franchise quarterback is racing upward. When news of Tannehill’s $US96 million contract (total potential value) came out on Tuesday, Colts punter Pat McAfee joked that Luck was going to get so much money he’d buy the whole team:
Luck is better and younger than a guy like Cutler and he has still only played three NFL seasons. He’s already worth Cutler money in 2015. What’s he going to be worth when he hits his prime in 2017 and the benchmark for what top quarterbacks are worth is even more inflated?
Giving Luck $US120 million now would hurt, but it won’t hurt as bad as giving him whatever the new going rate for a top-five quarterback is two years from now ($US150 million? With $US75 million guaranteed? How high can these go?).
Barring an injury, Luck is sitting pretty here. If the Colts really do make him play out his rookie deal and pay him in 2017, he’ll have some leverage. If the Colts don’t give him an offer he likes, he can simply force them to use the franchise tag, which starts at the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, and explodes upwards from there with each successive season. Florio ran the numbers on what it’d take to keep franchise-tagging Luck starting in 2017:
“If, for example, Luck’s franchise tender is $US20 million in 2017, it would cost the Colts $US24 million to keep him in 2018 and $US34.56 million to keep him in 2019. That’s $US78 million over three years. With the Colts likely to use the exclusive tender on Luck, those numbers could be as high as $US25 million, $US30 million, and $US43.2 million — equating to $US98.2 million over three years.”
At that point, giving him a long-term deal that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history is actually a cheaper option when it comes to annual cap hits.
NFL rules prevent Luck from hitting the open market and really seeing what he could get in a bidding war. But he’s still going to get his money, and the Colts’ waiting game is only driving up his price.
NOW WATCH: How LeBron James spends his money
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.