Colts exercise 2016 option on Andrew Luck

In a decision previously suggested and therefore expected, the Colts buy extra time by agreeing to pay their three-time Pro Bowl quarterback $16.1 million guaranteed in 2016.

Barring an injury, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will become one of the NFL’s highest-paid players some day.

Until that anticipated contract extension, the three-time Pro Bowl star now has a bit of insurance. The team exercised its fifth-year contract option for 2016 Thursday, which means Luck is guaranteed $16.155 million for that season.

Colts owner Jim Irsay had previously reiterated the team’s intent to exercise the option on Luck’s rookie deal, so this decision was expected. It gives the team a little more time to re-sign other key players in the next year — wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, left offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo as well as tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are entering contract years.

Luck counts $7,034,363 toward the salary cap for 2015. That ranks sixth on the roster behind cornerback Vontae Davis ($11,250,000), outside linebacker Robert Mathis ($7,750,000), wide receiver Andre Johnson ($7,500,000), Castonzo ($7,438,000) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones ($7,100,000).

That will soon change, as is the nature of the NFL with high-profile quarterbacks who typically demand many of the largest salaries. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the richest average deal for passers at $22 million per season through 2019 with $54 million guaranteed. Luck currently ranks 18th among quarterbacks in total contract value.

Media speculation had suggested the Colts were talking to Luck’s agent about a possible multi-year extension, but Irsay said in January it wasn’t one of the owner’s top priorities and reminded that Luck still had two years remaining on the quarterback’s contract. That technically wasn’t the case until the Colts exercised the fifth-year option Thursday.

The Colts spent so much recently in free agency, adding Johnson, running back Frank Gore, outside linebacker Trent Cole and defensive end/tackle Kendall Langford, among others, they’re just $10.5 million under the 2015 salary cap. So there isn’t enough money to give Luck a lucrative contract extension now.

Luck’s monster pay day is inevitable if he stays healthy. The 2012 No. 1 overall choice has started all 48 regular-season games in three seasons, completing 1,062-of-1,813 passes (58.6 percent) for 12,957 yards with 86 touchdowns, 43 interceptions and an 86.6 passer rating. he’s also rushed for 905 yards and 12 touchdowns on 189 attempts.

Luck, who turns 26 in September, has made the Pro Bowl each year and has thrown for the most passing yards, the second-most passing touchdowns and tied for second-most regular-season wins (33) through a quarterback’s first three seasons in the NFL since 1970.

The Colts have been 11-5 in each of the Luck years and advanced further in the playoffs each postseason. He’s 3-3 in playoff games. The Colts lost 45-7 at New England in the AFC Championship Game in January.

Last regular season, Luck set a franchise single-season record for passing yards (4,761) and his 40 touchdown passes led the NFL and ranked as the second-highest yearly mark in team history. He also set a franchise record with eight consecutive 300-yard passing games from Weeks 3 through 11.

Luck has the second-most career passing yards (1,829), touchdowns (nine), completions (147), pass attempts (260) and 300-yard passing games (three) in Colts postseason history.

He has led the team to 12 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. He set an NFL rookie record with 4,374 passing yards in 2012.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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