Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck became the highest paid NFL player in history, signing a six-year, $140m contract. He moves above Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers, but does he deserve such an enormous deal?
A success in Indianapolis?
Luck was the stand out talent of the 2012 draft, so much so that it was widely reported teams were losing on purpose in order to secure the No 1 pick.
That privilege fell to the 2-14 Colts who, after a calamitous season, parted ways with franchise QB Peyton Manning to make room for their incoming prodigious talent.
In each of his first three seasons, Luck guided the Colts to double digit wins and three successive play-off appearances.
2015 was a rough year for the quarterback, who struggled with form and injury throughout the season. A shoulder injury kept him out for two weeks, before a lacerated kidney in week 9 ended his season.
On the balance of all four years, Luck has so far shown himself to be a quality heir to Manning’s throne. Though he hasn’t brought home a title, a majority of the blame can be apportioned to poor defensive performances.
It appears, and Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is certainly hoping, that last year was an anomaly compared with his three previous seasons.
Ahead of his peers?
Whilst Luck struggled last year, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton made strides and is considered by many to be the most promising young passer in the NFL. His ability to both run and throw the ball gives him a dynamism which can cause headaches for opposition defences.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who wasn’t drafted until the third round in 2012, has continued to progress year-on-year, and already has a Super Bowl ring to his name. Other notable quarterbacks from that year include Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins, all of whom will be looking to make their mark.
The old guard of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger will also continue to compete for titles over the next few years, using their experience to try and lead their franchises to success in 2016.
Of the top five paid quarterbacks, Luck is the only one without a Super Bowl ring to show for it. At 27, he still has time and will have opportunities to join that illustrious club. In his first four seasons, he has been selected for the Pro Bowl three times, and has thrown for almost 15,000 yards, the fourth best tally in NFL history, despite an injury plagued campaign in 2015.
Luck has stated that even before the injuries, he was performing under par, and now will face even more pressure to justify a huge contract.
Are the Colts Super Bowl ready?
Early in Luck’s tenure, it was a poor defence that kept the Colts from a Super Bowl appearance. The team announced earlier in the offseason that new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino would be revamping their philosophy, looking to play simple, fast and high pressure defence.
Over the last two years, the Colts have drafted with defence in mind, and are hopeful that big defensive signings Kendall Langford, Trent Cole and Patrick Robinson can be important pieces for an improved unit in 2016.
On offence, the Colts addressed a glaring need when they drafted centre Ryan Kelly in the first round. Having played with five different centres in four years, investing a top 10 pick in the position is a huge benefit for Luck, who will hope to garner a successful relationship with Kelly.
In a much improved AFC South, the Colts will face another battle for a play-off berth. With a healthy Luck and a strengthened defence, there is no reason why the franchise can’t mount a challenge for their first Super Bowl since 2007.