Colts owner Jim Irsay did what he has said he would do all along - sign Andrew Luck this offseason to the biggest contract in NFL history. The Colts locked in their franchise quarterback to a total of 6 years $139.125M, or a 5 year, $122.97M new money contract. The deal checks off all the bullet points needed to be "historic", including a $23M+ AAV, $75M in 3-year cash, and a whopping $87M in practical full guaranteed money - all the most ever.
Assessing the Structure
In terms of cap figures, the beginning of the deal is relatively friendly, including $18.4M in 2016, and $19.4M in 2017. The cap hits rise to $24.4M, $27.525M, and $28.4M over 2018-20 before dropping to $21M in 2021.
Luck's roster bonus structure is interesting in that he contains multiple bonuses 2017, 2018, and 2019 that guarantee early in the league year, but one is paid in March of that year, while the other is paid in September. This is a strong example of how team's need to separate their cash flow from their cap table at times.
Luck receives a whopping $44M guaranteed at signing, 3rd most in the league. This comes from a $32M signing bonus, and a $12M 2016 salary.
From there though the deal becomes EXTREMELY team-friendly. The remaining $43M in full guarantees come in a "rolling" structure. This means that salaries & bonuses don't become fully guaranteed until a certain day of the league year, giving the team a way out (via trade or release) with less dead cap incurred.
For Luck, this starts in 2017 when his $7M salary, and $9M in roster bonuses become fully guaranteed on the 5th league day of 2017.
- On the 5th league day of 2018, his $12M salary and a $3M roster bonus become fully guaranteed.
- On the 5th league day of 2019, $12M in roster bonuses become fully guaranteed
- On the 5th league day of 2020, an $11M roster bonus becomes fully guaranateed
- On the 5th league day of 2021, a $10M roster bonus becomes fully guaranteed.
In other words, if the next 3 years don't go swimmingly, the Colts can bail out on this contract after the 2018 season, and before the 5th league day of the 2019 year, and incur just a $12.8M dead cap hit.
The cash structure for luck is scattered as noted above, but annually looks like:
- 2016: $30M
- 2017: $27M
- 2018: $18M
- 2019: $21.25M
- 2020: $22M
- 2021: $21M
Were he to play this contract out in full, he'll be 32 years and will have earned $161.2M through his first 10 NFL seasons.
Takeaways Going Forward
Luck's deal isn't going to raise the bar for everyone, but it's certainly supplanted the quarterback position as the dominant contract. The $75M in three year cash should excite future signees most (Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles), as it signifies a $25M per year deal within the logical term of the modern contract (many contracts are voided or extended in by year 4).
While the guaranteed money looks outrageous on paper, a quick look at the rolling structure of it lends all the control over years 2 and on to the team, who can remove themselves if necessary. Contracts for Bills DT Marcel Dareus and Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh have multiple salaries guaranteed early in the structure of the deal, handcuffing their respective teams.
It will be interesting going forward to see how the balance of power between the high numbers demanded from players/agents and any control (outs) the teams seek can live in harmony. It should surprise no one that Andrew Luck's contract appears to do both well.