Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke with reporters on a conference call Wednesday after quarterback Andrew Luck signed a six-year, $140-million contract to become the NFL’s highest-paid player in history.
A transcript has been provided by the Colts.
“Obviously the organization is excited about getting this deal done and getting it done before the Fourth of July. You know, Andrew is very deserving. It’s a big number at six years and right at just about 140 million dollar-wise. But it was a deal that was a fair deal for both sides, taking into account being cap friendly, being reasonable in the last year, also, in 2021. If we had to tag him, we are in good position to tag and we would not be put in a position that was unreasonable with some crazy number. And, you know, look, let me say this: when you talk about the guarantee, theoretically you can look at guarantees and what does it mean, and you could talk about them in a lot of different ways. But, you know, let’s just say we cut him Aug. 1, the first-day guarantee is $47 million, which is very reasonable – if we cut him Aug. 1, obviously a ridiculous hypothetical. So, in terms of the guarantees, it was reasonable. I will say this: not a penny will be funded with the league. That was something that was important and not easy to achieve. Those of you on the line know how that rule of over a million dollars funding came into place with the Eagles’ situation, the Patriots’ situation way back in the 80s when there was no, you know, really restriction on borrowings and where we did have some wayward team situations accumulating; a lot of debt vs. the value of the team, and that kind of got put into place. But again, no funding, like I said, using accrued – hypothetical, if he was cut Aug. 1, 47 million of the roughly 140 is guaranteed upon signing. You can look at the guarantees differently, obviously, as the contract goes along into the second and third year and thereafter. But, again, it works with the cap, it works with tagging in the last year, and I think both sides accomplished everything that we wanted to do and it was a fair deal.”
How is the contract cap friendly to the team?
“Well, I really think that, you know, as we look at how we’ve structured this contract, there is some anticipation, first of all, how much we kind of budgeted in for 2016, but also going along with the realization that the cap will most probably continue to go up. We definitely feel that we’re never in a position where we’re getting out of whack in any of the years from 2016 through 2021. I talk of cap friendly as well about the last year, if we had to tag, that we would not be in a difficult position to be able to tag, theoretically. So I think that, like I said, it was a deal that Andrew deserved. Obviously it’s a big number, but again, the guarantees and no funding is something that is also something that was important in getting this deal done.”
Are there parallels with the deal here to the one that you did with Peyton Manning in 2004?
“Well, no question there are. I think that having been through multiple deals with Peyton, you know, it’s a big deal when you sit down and start to talk face-to-face about your franchise quarterback and about getting something done. I think that as you guys know, it’s no mystery that the franchise quarterback obviously has the most leverage, so to speak, oftentimes to get the best sort of deals, and just total numbers and guarantees. But I think that with Peyton, and certainly with Andrew, there was some, I’ll use the word ‘self-sacrifice.’ I guess; just some real consideration about making sure we could pay that nucleus of 10 to 12 guys around Andrew like it was around Peyton. And of course in Peyton’s year, we kept the (Dwight) Freeneys and the (Robert) Mathises and the (Marvin) Harrisons and the (Reggie) Waynes and the Tarik Glenns. So, you know, I think it definitely brings you down memory lane a little bit, and certainly makes me laugh about how we got in a bitter battle with Bert Jones back in the early 80s where, you know, he wanted $700,000. That was viewed to be the most outrageous request ever heard of back in 81 or 82 (laughs). So these numbers dwarf your memory when you start going back almost 40 years with other players. I’m not even going to get into (Johnny) Unitas. But, you know, certainly with Bert that comes to recall. But again, the numbers go up. That’s not a surprise. It was a very civil negotiation, obviously, that was productive, and we were fortunate to get it done with Peyton. We always didn’t get it done this soon. So it was great getting it done in this timely way.”
Was there ever any doubt in your mind after the way Luck played in 2015 that he would not be the highest-paid player in NFL history?
“No. Again, you look at the total body of work. Obviously the Denver victory at home is something that stands out and makes us think of what could’ve been. I think, because we had made our change at offensive coordinator and Andrew had gotten healthy for that game, and obviously we could’ve put up 30 at home, but decided not to kick the field goal. Won a big game against the world champions. So we could obviously see what the Denver game was like. And, look, if he’s healthy, there’s no question in our minds that he’s going to return and do the things that he’s done. I mean, look, he’s been ahead of the curve, obviously, you know, going back to into Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison and all those great players’ era after four years. We hadn’t won a playoff game and we hadn’t done the things that we’ve done with Andrew. He is healthy, we looked – obviously this is not going to be his last contract by any means. I’ve never seen him more motivated to have a great season in terms of taking care of himself and just working out. I mean, he always has been, but if you can talk about redoubling your efforts, that fire is in his eye in a special way. And so, I really didn’t have any doubt; that didn’t factor into the negotiation. We never even suggested it as leverage, you know, that, ‘Well what about the slow start, or what have you, against Buffalo, and what about the injuries?’ We didn’t go there. We went along the lines of, I think both of us, in realizing that we’re very blessed to have him, and he’s very excited to be a Colt.”
How is your team positioned moving forward?
“Yeah, I’m excited obviously. Obviously we lost Coby (Fleener), we lost (Jerrell) Freeman as the inside linebacker, but beyond that, we really like Sio Moore, we really like (Antonio) Morrison (and) some of our young guys. We really feel with those three receivers being fast and healthy that (Donte) Moncrief, (Phillip) Dorsett and T.Y. (Hilton) in particular – who’s really looking to have a huge year – we love where we are. We love the offensive linemen. I think you cannot underestimate how much Ryan Kelly means to the franchise, because I can tell you that he puts Andrew in a different state of mind. Andrew has not had that type of center in front of him that he can depend on for the next decade or more. We were fortunate to have him there to pick in the first round and couldn’t be more excited about that pick, including the additional offensive linemen – the other three that we picked up. We really like Denzelle Good. He’s a guy that’s just got to keep his weight in line, but he is a guy that can play guard and tackle well in this league, we feel. Obviously we extended (Anthony) Castonzo and T.Y. (Hilton) quietly before last season, which was very important. We really like where our team is. We know we have some age with the edge rushers and we know we couldn’t address it all in one draft, but we really do like overall where we are going defensively, and definitely offensively we feel like we’re going to have the best offensive line, not only in depth but in frontline talent that we’ve had in Andrew’s now going into his fifth year. We do feel that (Frank) Gore has to be managed, but he has another year. We do like some of the backs we’ve added. We think guys like Josh Ferguson have a chance to be special, time will tell. But we really like where we’re going. (It was) really important that we retained, like I said, Dwayne Allen, (Anthony) Castonzo and T.Y. (Hilton), that those guys are important pillars for our organization.
"So we really like where we’re going. We like our secondary. We think we have a lot of young talent in the secondary, and, so again, time will tell. Again, when we look at our Denver game and see the way that we played, we want to kind of leap frog off of that with our new draft picks and Andrew getting healthy. But we’re excited about the year, including everything about the way the offseason has gone has been a big plus. You can’t underestimate how important it’s been to get this deal done quietly and successfully. We feel continuity at the top with Chuck Pagano and with Ryan Grigson and at the same time we think we have an outstanding coaching staff that we have retooled. So we’ve made the changes we need to, and we know our division is a lot better, but we really do like our chances, and we’re trying to be a team that’s going to keep getting better as the decade gets older and closer to 2020. So it was great getting this deal done in the timely way we did, and really looking forward to the season, obviously, with the Hall of Fame Game with Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison going in against the Packers. And then even having the chance to play in London, that’s going to be special. So love it that we’re opening at home. That’s a game we got to win, there’s no question about it. So our focus is (to) do everything we can to get to 1-0, and go to the next game from there. But I couldn’t be more thrilled about the timeliness of this deal. Like I said, I think it’s a fair deal for both sides. It’s hard to get that done in a timely way these days, but, again, we couldn’t be more excited about it and looking forward to the season, guys. So thank you guys, and we will look forward to seeing you guys up in Anderson real soon.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.