SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken reacts to the news that Andrew Luck will retire from the NFL and explains why we should all be understanding of this decision.
Andrew Luck shocked the Colts, the city of Indianapolis and the NFL by announcing his retirement on Saturday night.
Financially, Luck is leaving a lot of money — both in terms of money left on his contract and potential future earnings — on the table.
Luck had three years remaining on the six-year extension he signed on June 29, 2016, a deal that reworked the final year of his rookie contract and added five more, worth $139,151,525 in total.
By retiring, Luck is giving up $58.125 million left on his contract: his 2019 base salary of $9.125 million and a 2019 roster bonus of $6 million that was to be paid Sept. 17; a base salary of $11 million and an $11 million roster bonus in 2020; and a base salary of $11 million and a $10 million roster bonus in 2021.
More on Luck’s retirement:
What is the impact on the Colts’ salary cap?
Luck will count as $12.4 million in dead cap money this year, and $6.4 million next season for his pro-rated signing bonus.
Indianapolis currently has $46,506,998 available in salary space, according to NFLPA records, a number that would fall to $34,106,998 after Luck’s dead money accelerates. The Colts will likely lose a small amount of dead money in roster cuts next week, but in reality, the decision will not significantly impact the Colts’ cap, either now or in the future.
The Colts could ask Luck to return the prorated portion of his signing bonus: $6.4 million each of the next two seasons.
How much did he potentially surrender in future contracts?
Colts owner Jim Irsay said in the press conference that Luck is potentially leaving $450 million, or half a billion dollars, on the table by retiring.
Irsay’s proclamation might not be that far off, given the way quarterback’s salaries continue to rise.
If Luck had been able to continue to play at his current level — a big if, of course, due to his injuries — it would not have been a surprise to see him play until he was at least 38 in an era with current quarterbacks such as Drew Brees (40 years old), Tom Brady (42), Ben Roethlisberger (37), Eli Manning (38) and Philip Rivers (38), and those who recently retired in Peyton Manning (39 his last season), Carson Palmer (38), Brett Favre (41) and Matt Hasselbeck (40).
A new deal could have come in the next couple of seasons, and Russell Wilson set the most recent bar at $35 million per year. Quarterback salaries have exploded in the last decade, and it’s not out of the question for the game’s top passers to get to somewhere between $40 million and $50 million, provided that the NFL salary cap continues to rise as a whole, by the time Luck was negotiating his next contract.
Luck, 29, would still be relatively young, at least in quarterback years, when he signed his extension, and could have added a couple more short-term years if he was able to keep playing, the way Brees and Brady have. That possibility might seem out of the realm of possibility given Luck’s injuries, until it’s taken into account that Brees underwent a catastrophic shoulder injury of his own.
Five additional seasons at an average of $45 million gets Luck to $225 million on top of the $60 million on his current deal, which runs through his age 32 season.
Irsay might have been a little high on his estimate, but not by much.
How much money did Andrew Luck make in his career?
According to Luck’s contract, he’s made a little more than $100 million in his career, although the Colts could ask Luck to return $12.8 million in signing bonus, the amount of money from his signing bonus still prorated on his contract.