Andrew Luck

This Date In Transactions History: Colts’ Andrew Luck Becomes NFL’s Highest-Paid Player

Four years ago today, the Colts made Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in NFL history. The deal was supposed to tie Luck to Indy through the 2021 season, but it didn’t pan out that way.

[RELATED: Colts Sign Michael Pittman Jr.]

Luck agreed to a five-year extension worth $122MM, with $87MM in overall guarantees and $47MM fully guaranteed at signing. Without the deal, Luck would have been eligible for free agency following the ’16 season. From there, the Colts could have retained Luck for an additional two seasons via the franchise tag at estimated values of $25MM and $35MM, but it would have put them in a difficult position down the road. Instead, both sides used Luck’s expected franchise tags amounts as a framework for talks and hammered out a deal.

With the contract, Luck leapfrogged Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers in average annual value. The deal made sense, but it did not come without risk. Luck was coming off of an injury-riddled, seven-game season in which he completed just 55.3% of his passes and logged 15 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Luck’s shoulder was largely a non-issue in 2016 as he threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns with a career-high 63.5 completion percentage. After the season, he went under the knife to fix his shoulder, and that’s where things started to get messy. First, Luck was held out of training camp and 2017 preseason. Then, he was ruled out for week after week in the regular season. Finally, in November, the Colts were forced to place Luck on season-ending IR.

Luck had to claw his way back into things – when he was finally able to throw a regulation-sized football, it was a noteworthy event. In 2018, things seemed to be trending up. The former No. 1 overall pick led the Colts to a 9-1 record to close the season, allowing them to squeak into the playoffs. The Colts even downed the Texans in the first round, before falling to the Chiefs. With a seemingly healthy Luck and lots of young talent, the Colts were moving in the right direction.

Then, just before the start of the 2019 season, Luck shocked the world. At the age of 29, Luck retired from football, largely due to the mental grind of the sport. With that, Luck’s five-year extension turned into a two-year add-on. The Colts, meanwhile, turned to Jacoby Brissett as their new starter, with little time to get him comfortable in his new role.

The Colts did not seek repayment on the deal – they could have recovered $12.8MM of the $32MM signing bonus he was entitled to under his current contract, plus two $6MM roster bonuses, totaling ~$25MM.

Luck is done with football, but speculation about his potential return persists. Earlier this year, before the Colts landed Philip Rivers, GM Chris Ballard did his best to quell the talk:

Andrew’s retired,” Ballard said. “Do I talk to Andrew? Yes, I do. Haven’t talked to him in a few weeks, I’m sure he’s been busy being a father. But Andrew’s retired, and I think we all need to accept that. That’s where he’s at. He’s retired.”

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South Rumors: Titans, Luck, Jags, Falcons

Perhaps no team’s free agency plan hinges on the CBA more than the Titans‘. They have three marquee free agents, and the previously reported goal of extending Ryan Tannehill soon looks to have an auxiliary purpose. The Titans’ hopes of extending Tannehill before the franchise-transition tag window closes March 12 doubles as a way to keep Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin. Tennessee would then like to use both its tags on Henry and Conklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Conklin component here is interesting, as little has emerged on a possible reunion between the tackle and the Titans. It will almost certainly require a tag to keep the former first-round lineman off the market. Conklin has generated immense interest thus far.

This Titans plan might not be viable, leading to some frenetic extension talks in order to prevent them from losing two members of this trio. Teams may not be permitted to use both tags. While a ruling has yet to emerge, the possibility of a CBA ratification forcing a team to vacate one of its tags remains in play.

Here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • No surprise here, but the Jaguars are prepared to use their franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue, La Canfora adds. The standout defensive end held out from Jags offseason activities last year and will not be pleased the team will prevent him from hitting the market, per JLC. The Jaguars not picking up Marcell Dareus‘ option freed up $20MM in cap space, giving them just more than $21MM — just enough for an approximately $18MM Ngakoue tag. GM Dave Caldwell called Ngakoue the team’s top priority at the end of last season.
  • Jim Irsay appears to be hoping Andrew Luck will change his mind, but Frank Reich does not expect him to. The Colts HC continues to talk to the team’s former franchise quarterback, but those discussions apparently do not progress to the subject of a comeback. “I talk to him; we communicate. I sense none of that. We don’t talk about that,” Reich said, during an appearance on PFT Live, about an NFL return for the 30-year-old passer. “I think he’s retired. He’s like any other ex-player. You’re always going to miss your buddies in the locker room. That’s normal. I don’t read into that a clue that he wants to come back. He’s just a good friend.”
  • A Falcons cog for seven seasons, Kemal Ishmael will likely have to find another team in order to continue his career. The seven-year veteran linebacker-safety will not be brought back, according to Ishmael’s agent (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The Falcons have shuttled the 28-year-old defender/special-teamer between safety and linebacker and have re-signed him to one-year deals in each of the past three offseasons.

Jim Irsay On Luck, QBs, Castonzo, RBs

After Andrew Luck‘s retirement created the most uncertainty the Colts have faced at the quarterback position since Peyton Manning‘s career-threatening injury in 2011, they now project to be one of the key players in this offseason’s complex quarterback derby.

Presenting a quarterback market that features Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater as free agents — along with nominal UFAs Drew Brees and Dak Prescott — to go with Cam Newton and Andy Dalton as likely trade chips, 2020 brings unusual uncertainty at the NFL’s glamour position.

Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed several topics Sunday but focused on the quarterback position, where the team’s current starter — Jacoby Brissett — is not a lock to stay in that role.

I won’t talk about specific players; I would just say all options are open,” Irsay said, via Mike Chappell of Fox 59. “We have challenged each other to keep the ancient enemy of rationalization out of the room. The quarterback position, the three of us (Irsay, GM Chris Ballard and HC Frank Reich) will make it. We have to. It’s too big of a decision. All options are on the table. I’ve never quite seen a year when this was so unusual if you will. It’s exciting. I look at it as a challenge.”

The Colts, who hold this year’s No. 13 overall selection, have also been linked to making a first-round quarterback pick. While calling Indianapolis’ Brissett-Brian Hoyer depth chart “better than probably half the league,” Irsay will keep the draft avenue open. Although, the Colts are extremely unlikely to be in position to draft one of this year’s top three quarterback prospects at No. 13.

We’ll keep evaluating that position. I know we’ll find the right answer and Jacoby can have a much higher ceiling that he has now. That’s a possibility,” Irsay said. “We could draft someone. That’s a possibility. Doesn’t have to be the first round. There’s a lot of good players out there.

“I know we were going to take Russell Wilson the year (2012) we took Andrew in the fourth round, but he was gone in the third. We would have taken him, but that’s a long story.”

As for who will be Brissett or his replacement’s blindside protector, Irsay is confident Anthony Castonzo will be back. The nine-year veteran is considering retirement. Ballard believes the former first-round pick has several years left in the tank.

“I haven’t talked to Anthony personally, but he’s a Pro Bowl left tackle and we want him to come back,” Irsay said. “I think there’s a strong likelihood that he will, but I think Chris will have more on that in the coming weeks.”

Irsay added that the Colts have not discussed an extension for Marlon Mack. While indicating the Colts like Mack and want him to stay beyond his 2020 contract year, the longtime owner mentioned how much the organization likes 2018 draftees Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines.

Lastly, Irsay did get around to Luck. The owner said both Ballard and Reich still have dinner with the retired passer and that he has not given up on the prospect of the former No. 1 overall pick returning to the Colts at some point.

I try to make the argument (with him) also, ‘What about the $700MM (seems high) you’re leaving on the table?‘” Irsay said, after noting he respects Luck’s decision to retire. “I think we’ll have an outstanding decade, and I think Andrew will have an outstanding life. Will those things meet? It’s very possible, but it’s also not possible. … We have to go on with the assumption that he’s not going to be back. If he comes back, that’s easy.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Andrew Luck

The Colts aren’t totally committed to Jacoby Brissett as their quarterback for 2020. Regardless of how that shakes out, it doesn’t sound like Andrew Luck will be walking through that door. 

[RELATED: Colts GM: “Jury Still Out” On Brissett]

He’s doing fine,” said Andrew’s dad and XFL commissioner Oliver Luck in an interview with Dan Patrick. “My wife and I spent some time with him and his growing family. He just got his first child about six weeks ago. We were with him over Christmas. He’s doing great. I have not noticed any desires to come back and play, but he’s doing very well.”

Colts GM Chris Ballard has gotten a similar impression from the former No. 1 overall pick.

Andrew’s retired,” Ballard said recently. “Do I talk to Andrew? Yes, I do. Haven’t talked to him in a few weeks, I’m sure he’s been busy being a father. But Andrew’s retired, and I think we all need to accept that. That’s where he’s at. He’s retired.”

With that, the Colts probably won’t be able to talk the former No. 1 overall pick into returning in 2020. On the plus side, they have the No. 13 overall pick in the draft and upwards of $90MM in projected cap space to work with.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts GM: “Jury’s Still Out” On Jacoby Brissett

The Colts aren’t sold on Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback. Brissett has one more year to go on his contract, but GM Chris Ballard says “the jury’s still out” on the 27-year-old. 

That’s why we did a short-term deal with Jacoby,” said Ballard. “Jacoby did some good things. I don’t want to just look at the second half of the season and say he didn’t, because Jacoby did some good things. I think as a whole, not just the quarterback position, but our passing game has to improve. Unequivocally. That has to get better. You have to be able to throw the ball to win in this league.

This all jibes with a December report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport – the Colts, armed with the No. 13 overall pick in the draft, could look for a new signal caller. One can’t help but wonder if their QB search could lead them back to old friend Andrew Luck, but Ballard did his best to downplay that possibility when speaking with reporters on Thursday.

Andrew’s retired,” Ballard said. “Do I talk to Andrew? Yes, I do. Haven’t talked to him in a few weeks, I’m sure he’s been busy being a father. But Andrew’s retired, and I think we all need to accept that. That’s where he’s at. He’s retired.”

After being thrust into the starting QB role, Brissett completed 60.9% of his throws in 2019 for 2,942 yards. He also threw for 18 touchdowns against just six interceptions and advanced the ball on the ground a bit as well. Brissett averaged 4.1 yards on 56 rushing attempts in 2019, scored four rushing touchdowns, and picked up 20 first downs with his feet.

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Latest On Colts’ QB Plans

We recently heard that the Colts could look to add a QB this offseason, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is hearing the same. Although Indianapolis may not be involved in the free agent or trade market for signal-callers, Rapoport suggests the team could use an early pick on a QB in the 2020 draft.

Starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett had a pretty strong start to the season, but he has struggled in recent weeks as the Colts have fallen out of playoff contention. He is due a $6MM salary in 2020 to go along with a $7MM roster bonus that has already been triggered, but Indianapolis will have plenty of cap space and can afford to carry him on the books even if it selects a young QB.

The 6-8 Colts could find themselves with a mid-first round selection, which may put them in position to land (or trade up for) a collegiate passer like Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. If they are sufficiently intrigued by such a player, they could easily groom him behind Brissett while parting ways with Brian Hoyer, whose guarantees have already been paid out.

One thing that Colts fans should not hold out hope for, according to Rapoport, is a return of Andrew Luck. “With Andrew, at this point I just kind of take him for face value and we’ll see what happens because only he can decide,” owner Jim Irsay said. “From talking to Andrew, we have to take him at face value for what he says. So [GM] Chris Ballard and I and [head coach] Frank Reich, we have to move forward. And we are with Jacoby and the next draft and thereafter.”

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Colts Considered Delaying Luck’s Decision

Before Andrew Luck officially retired from the NFL, the Colts considered a plan that would give the quarterback a chance to reverse course. There was a discussion in the Colts’ front office about placing Luck on injured reserve in order to postpone his final decision, ESPN.com’s Ed Werder tweets

[RELATED: More Fallout From Andrew Luck’s Retirement]

Of course, that’s not what transpired – although it wasn’t an easy call, Luck was firm in his decision to walk away from the game in his prime years. Plagued by an incomprehensible amount of rehab and physical pain, the former No. 1 overall pick is walking away from the NFL to focus on other interests.

From a football perspective, the Colts are in better shape than most other teams would be in this scenario. They are very are high on their new QB1, Jacoby Brissett, though they may need to find a new QB2 to backstop him. As of this writing, Swag Kelly stands to be Brissett’s backup, though he’ll first have to serve a two-game suspension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

More Fallout From Andrew Luck’s Retirement

Earlier this morning, we brought you all the fallout from Andrew Luck‘s shocking decision to retire. Not surprisingly given how big of an event it was, there’s now even more fallout to cover. One of the nuggets we heard earlier was how the Colts weren’t going to try to recoup any of the money from Luck’s contract that they could’ve under the CBA. If they had chosen to, they apparently wouldn’t have faced too much resistance.

Luck “was open to returning at least a portion of the money that had been paid to him,” a source told Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Colts owner Jim Irsay ultimately declined, and let Luck keep a whopping $24.8MM that he could’ve gotten back. Robinson speculates that Irsay could’ve made the call as a gesture of “good will that keeps a door open should Luck ever recuperate physically and hope to return to the NFL.” That’s certainly a reasonable take considering Irsay not very subtly indicated he was hoping Luck would change his mind during his own press conference.

Here’s the latest on everything related to Luck:

  • There’s been some slight confusion over the timeline of Luck’s decision, and Stephen Holder of The Athletic sought to clear the air (Twitter link). After speaking with sources, Holder writes that he is “now even more convinced in the timeline that Luck and Colts laid out last night. Luck was working toward a return and the Colts fully expected that return to happen.” There have been some rumblings that Luck was considering walking away further back, but Holder doesn’t believe that to be the case.
  • If Luck does want to come back, it isn’t going to be in 2019. The Colts have officially placed him on the reserve/retired list, which means Luck would have to clear waivers to come back this season, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). As Garafolo points out, that would never happen. Rumors will likely swirl for years to come about a potential Luck comeback, but the door seems to be slammed shut on 2019 at the very least.
  • It was only a matter of time before someone brought this up. In an article from early this afternoon, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com floats the possibility of Luck playing in the XFL. The reason this connection was always going to be made by somebody is that Luck’s father, Oliver Luck, is the commissioner of Vince McMahon’s upstart league. Florio himself acknowledges the idea is far-fetched, and it’s hard to imagine any scenario that it happens even though the ten-game season would be less taxing on his body. For starters, Luck would have to receive permission from the Colts to play in another league since he’s still under contract, and that seems extremely unlikely to say the least.
  • Luck’s sudden retirement sent shockwaves around the league. To get a sense of what other organizations were feeling, Mike Sando of The Athletic talked to coaches and executives around the league about his decision. One exec compared Luck’s handling of the situation favorably to the way Brett Favre handled his multiple retirements. “Completely healthy, Favre makes the Packers wait, he’s down in Mississippi, he’s taking private jets and has trouble deciding, and finally they trade him,” the exec said. “Luck was straining through rehab and probably going to all the meetings. He had to face the cameras and get booed instead of keeping it quiet and making the decision after the season if he has to sit out. This is much more courageous. This is what defines him.”

 

Fallout From Andrew Luck’s Retirement

Andrew Luck‘s decision to step away from the game of football at the age of 29 will go down as one of the most surprising retirement decisions in the history of the league. But in his impromptu press conference last night, Luck kept using the word “exhausted,” as Zak Keefer of The Athletic observes. Luck’s latest health concern, a calf/ankle ailment, was just part of that exhaustion.

Keefer sums up Luck’s run of major injury woes over the past few years quite nicely. As Keefer writes, Luck “once played an entire quarter against the eventual Super Bowl champs with both a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdomen muscle – and led the Colts to a win. He played half a season with torn cartilage in two ribs. There was an injured thumb, a bum ankle, at least one diagnosed concussion and the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that nearly cost him his career at age 28.”

All of those issues forced Luck to move on to the next chapter of his life much sooner than he wanted. Anyone who watched his presser could see the anguish in his face, how his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, and how painful it was for him to make this decision. But as Luck himself said, “[i]t’s been four years of this injury-pain cycle. And for me to move forward in my life the way I want to, it didn’t involve football.”

Here’s just some of the fallout from Luck’s stunning announcement:

  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that Luck and the Colts have reached an agreement wherein the team will not attempt to recoup any money to which it would be entitled under the CBA. As Joel Corry of CBS Sports notes, the team could have recovered $24.8MM from the former No. 1 overall pick ($12.8MM of the $32MM signing bonus he was entitled to under his current contract, plus two $6MM March 2019 roster bonuses). If the Colts did seek repayment, any money they got back would have counted as a salary cap credit (Twitter links). Colts fans are already taking plenty of heat for booing Luck during the team’s preseason game last night — which Luck admitted was hurtful — and it would not have been a good look if the team were to try and seek repayment (especially in light of how the club mismanaged his early career, as Conor Orr of SI.com summarizes).
  • The Colts are high on their new QB1, Jacoby Brissett, but as Stephen Holder of The Athletic says, the team needs a veteran signal-caller behind Brissett, and it’s likely that GM Chris Ballard is already working feverishly to make a move. Indianapolis has enough draft capital to swing a trade of some kind (Twitter links).
  • Indianapolis may well remain competitive with Brissett at the helm, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says team brass does not believe the Colts will be drafting high enough in 2020 to land one of next year’s top QB prospects (Twitter link).
  • Colts owner Jim Irsay sounds like a man who hopes that Luck will unretire at some point. Irsay said, “[y]ou know, I don’t rule it out. Because as quickly as this thing sort of descended on us, and as mysterious as it was coming upon us, it could leave the same way” (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk). It was clear that Luck had thought long and hard about his decision, so as shocking as his retirement is, it would be even more shocking if he were to return to the field as a player. But Irsay is not ready to give up hope.
  • Irsay estimates that Luck left about $500MM on the table by retiring early given the ever-increasing QB salaries and the $64MM he was already due under the remaining three years of his current deal. As Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets, that’s probably an accurate assessment. But if Luck is willing to walk away from that kind of cash, it seems as though he really is retired for good.
  • Luck’s contract will toll, so if he were to reverse course and come back, Indianapolis would hold his rights for three more seasons, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reminds us (via Twitter).
  • We heard last night that the Colts had known for at least two weeks that Luck was seriously considering retirement, but Ballard says that Luck only began discussing the possibility with the team Monday (less then a week ago), as Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

Andrew Luck Retiring From NFL

Truly shocking news, as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is retiring from the NFL, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Schefter reports there will be a press conference on Sunday to formally announce the news. He writes that Luck “is mentally worn down, and now checking out.”

To say this is stunning news would be a massive understatement. In a separate tweet, Schefter writes that Luck has already met with Colts owner Jim Irsay to tell him of his decision. Luck has been dealing with a mysterious calf/ankle injury, although it wasn’t thought to be serious. The latest reporting indicated that the Colts were still hoping Luck would be ready for Week 1.

Indianapolis had known for “at least two weeks” that Luck was seriously considering retirement, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). While the news apparently didn’t completely catch the organization off-guard, it doesn’t make it all that much easier to swallow for them.

In one of the most unprecedented moves in recent league history, Luck will be hanging up his cleats at the age of 29. There will be endless discussion in the coming days about what caused him to step away, although injuries are obviously part of it. Luck was plagued with a shoulder injury that lingered for a couple of years and ended up costing him the entire 2017 season. The process was mentally exhausting and always shrouded in secrecy, but he eventually worked his way back onto the field for the start of last year.

He made a triumphant return to Indy, leading them to wins in nine of their last ten games to sneak into the playoffs. He helped the Colts topple the Texans in the first round of the playoffs before they fell to the Chiefs. The team has a lot of good young talent and made major strides under head coach Frank Reich last year.

They were expected to be a Super Bowl contender heading into 2019 and were one of the most buzzed about teams this offseason. Luck’s lower leg injury was starting to get concerning due to the limited information available, but obviously nobody ever saw this coming. With Luck stepping away, Jacoby Brissett will now take over as the team’s starter.

Brissett is widely regarded as one of the league’s best backups, so things could be worse for the Colts. The team has been expressing confidence in Brissett all offseason, which in hindsight might’ve been foreshadowing this news. After being acquired in a trade with the Patriots, Brissett started most of the 2017 season for Indy. He finished with 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, making his situation all the more interesting.

Luck’s retirement is obviously a huge boost to the rest of the AFC South, and he was 11-0 in his career against the Titans. The Colts will still have a chance to be competitive given Reich’s coaching and Brissett’s competence, but it’s hard not to see this as removing them from the list of AFC contenders.

Even with Brissett in tow, the Colts will likely be in the market for a veteran quarterback now. Their only backups are Phillip Walker and Chad Kelly, and neither has ever attempted a regular season pass. Kelly is also suspended for the first two games of the season, so he won’t be able to backup Brissett until Week 3.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what Luck will do now in his post-playing career. Given his young age, there will surely be rumors of a comeback for as long as he stays retired. Luck was apparently on the field at the Colts’ preseason game when the news broke, casually chatting with teammates, according to a tweet from Stephen Holder of The Athletic.

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