Andrew Luck

NFC East Notes: Wentz, Luck, Gallup, Giants

Before acquiring Carson Wentz, the Commanders scoured the league for their next passer. They made a three-first-rounder offer for Russell Wilson and pursued Aaron Rodgers. Those avenues closed quickly, leading Washington to Wentz. The team made a list of eight QBs it viewed as a satisfactory upgrade, with John Keim of ESPN.com noting this included Deshaun Watson. It is unclear if the team pursued Watson, but Texans GM Nick Caserio pointed out there were more interested teams than the four finalists. The Commanders’ search, which involved Ron Rivera participating in an lengthy QB-centered discussion with three-time Super Bowl champion HC Joe Gibbs, also included a consideration of Andrew Luck. That did not get off the ground, per Keim. Luck has been retired for three seasons now and has dropped some weight from his playing days. Wentz resided somewhere on the Commanders’ eight-man list, with his 6-foot-5 frame appealing to his new team. The Colts initially told the NFC East team he was not available, but that changed at the Combine and led to a deal.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Given a five-year, $57.5MM Cowboys contract, Michael Gallup is coming off an ACL tear sustained in Week 17. The fifth-year receiver is unlikely to be ready by Week 1, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Dallas is obviously looking at Gallup’s long-term trajectory, having jettisoned Amari Cooper to keep his former sidekick at a lower rate. But the team may need to stash Gallup on the PUP list or make him an active-roster non-participant to start the season, depending on his timetable.
  • The Giants added multiple interior offensive linemen — Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano — last week but are still in need at right tackle. They sent key personnel to Mississippi State prospect Charles Cross‘ pro day Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson and assistant O-line coach Tony Sparano Jr. were on-hand in Starkville, Miss., per NJ.com’s Zack Rosenblatt. Cross said the Giants and Jets have been the teams most interested thus far. Cross is viewed as this draft’s third-best tackle prospect, behind Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu. The Giants hold two top-10 picks — Nos. 5 and 7 — and will not surprise anyone if they use one of them on an O-lineman.
  • James Bradberry and Saquon Barkley remain Giants, but Bradberry’s $21.9MM cap number jumps out on the team’s payroll. The Giants will probably have to jettison Bradberry, even if they would prefer to keep him, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano writes, due to their cap situation. Big Blue has discussed Barkley and Bradberry in trades, and while they may hang onto the latter until draft weekend, dumping the talented cornerback later in the offseason remains in play. Bradberry’s through-2022 deal already contains a void year, but the Giants would save $11.5MM by designating him as a post-June 1 cut. A trade before or after June 1 would free up more than $12MM in funds, though it remains to be seen how late of a draft pick the Giants would accept for their No. 1 corner.

Colts’ T.Y. Hilton: Retired Andrew Luck “Having The Time Of His Life”

Andrew Luck is “having the time of his life” and he’s never felt like this before, longtime teammate T.Y. Hilton says (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of The Athletic). Hilton’s comments are just the latest indication that Luck will not be returning to the NFL, despite the constant speculation about his plans. 

Luck, who won’t turn 32 until the fall, shocked the world when he retired just before the start of the 2019 season. He was just 29 at the time, but he felt that he could no longer play through the pain of his injuries. Ever since, fans have been wondering if the former No. 1 overall pick could have a change of heart,

He knows we would love to have him back,’’ owner Jim Irsay said earlier this year. “But only he can answer that question deep in his heart and his soul: ‘Hey, do I really want to come back and be a quarterback for the Colts again in the NFL?’ It’s easy for us. He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback…He knows that he can come back anytime he wants, but at the same time we respect he’s made that decision.’’

Meanwhile, Hilton is on the verge of his 32nd birthday in April. He recently re-signed with the Colts on a one-year deal and acknowledges that it could be his last NFL contract.

[I] probably need to stop talking to [Luck] so much,” Hilton said. “He might make me retire. He’s making me kind of jealous.”

Jim Irsay On Hilton, Luck, QBs

Jim Irsay is one of the most forthcoming owners in sports, and he was once again an open book when giving an end of year press conference earlier this week. Irsay spoke on a number of topics very relevant to Colts fans, as well as the league as a whole. Let’s start with the question everyone wants answered every few months, Andrew Luck.

Irsay once again reiterated that he’d love to have Luck back, and that the door is wide open on their end. “He knows we would love to have him back,’’ Irsay said, via Mike Chappell of Fox 59. “But only he can answer that question deep in his heart and his soul: ‘Hey, do I really want to come back and be a quarterback for the Colts again in the NFL?’ It’s easy for us. He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback.” It doesn’t sound like he’s banking on it, but he’s clearly at least still holding out hope. “He knows that he can come back anytime he wants, but at the same time we respect he’s made that decision.’’

Luck is still only 31, so he’s got plenty of time if the early retiree ever does change his mind. Irsay also talked about the immediate. quarterback situation with Philip Rivers electing to retire this offseason. Irsay said the team believes they’re another quarterback away from being Super Bowl contenders, and they do have a very talented nucleus and great coaching staff.

He did caution that the team wouldn’t make a move just for the sake of making one, saying “we just have to make sure we go in the right direction without setting ourselves back as we pursue the new quarterback frontier.” When you couple that with GM Chris Ballard recently hinting that he doesn’t want to draft a quarterback in the first-round, it really sounds like the Colts would prefer an established veteran.

Indy has been linked to Matthew Stafford, although Stafford is far from the only experienced quarterback who will be available in what should be an unprecedented offseason for signal-caller movement. Finally, Irsay also talked about impending free agent T.Y. Hilton, saying the team wants him back but acknowledging that money issues could prevent that.

We’d love to see T.Y. back. There’s no question about it,’’ Irsay said, before immediately adding “look, there’s a business side to it.” He went on to say “you want a guy back, but it has to fit into what you view, what the marketplace dictates. It really comes down to that. The biggest thing I’ve found is you want guys who really want to be here, and so sometimes if they don’t hit their price mark, you don’t want them to be resentful.”

Hilton is 31 now and got off to a slow start in 2020 before developing a rhythm with Rivers and breaking out down the stretch. He’s past his prime physically but showed in the second half he’s still got a good amount left in the tank. It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of contract the Colts legend lands this offseason.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.