The Indianapolis Colts signed franchise quarterback Andrew Luck on Wednesday to the richest deal in the history of the the NFL. Luck was due to earn $16.1 million this season and the five-year extension through 2021 brings the total value of the contract to $140 million, according to Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Andrew Luck throws the ball during the game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium in November 2015 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Irsay had made it a priority this offseason to get Luck signed to a long-term deal before the season started, and he said last month that he’d be “surprised” if they didn’t come to terms. Irsay took to Twitter to announce the deal:
The deal rewards the 2012 No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford for a historic start to his career. The Colts won only two games in 2011 before Luck arrived, but went 11-5 and made the playoffs each of Luck’s first three seasons as the team transitioned from one franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, to another. Luck averaged 4,319 yards passing per season his first three years and led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2014 with 40.
The Colts and Luck took a step back in 2015 when the team finished 8-8 and Luck missed nine games with injuries. He completed only 55% of his passes and threw 12 interceptions against 15 TDs.
The 2015 struggles weren’t enough to deter the Colts, who were destined to give Luck a record-breaking deal. Luck’s contract shatters the previous records for total value, annual salary and guaranteed money, which is all important in the NFL where career-ending injuries are always a possibility.
The previous richest deal in NFL history was Calvin Johnson’s eight-year, $132 million pact, although the wide receiver retired this year after four seasons of the contract. Luck’s average annual value of $23.3 million topsJoe Flacco’s $22.1 million for the deal he signed this offseason. Luck’s $87 million guarantee dramatically ups the previous high of $65 million for the deals signed by fellow QBs Eli Manning and Philip Rivers last summer.
“I am thrilled and excited to continue with this great organization,” Luck said in a statement. “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.”
Luck’s contract is the latest in a string of blockbuster contracts for NFL QBs over the last 12 months, including ones for Flacco, Rivers, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and more. Revenue for the NFL is expected to top $13 billion in 2016, pushing salaries even higher as the cap rises.
But despite its position as the financial kingpin among American sports, NFL players can’t touch their counterparts in baseball and the NBA when it comes to salaries. MLB is the only major U.S. sports league that operates without a salary cap and rosters are half the size as they are in the NFL. David Price signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox this winter. Giancarlo Stanton is owed $325 million over 13 years under his contract with the Miami Marlins.
The NBA’s new $24 billion TV deal will cause an explosion in basketball salaries. Elite players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant can command five-year contracts next summer worth more than $200 million. In addition to higher values, every dollar of an MLB or NBA contract is typically guaranteed the moment it is signed.