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Jim Irsay Refutes Report Regarding Andrew Luck's Contract, Calls It 'BS'

Apr 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback and number one overall draft choice Andrew Luck (right) greets owner Jim Irsay to a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback and number one overall draft choice Andrew Luck (right) greets owner Jim Irsay to a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Prior to the weekend (which, in case you care, I often take off because I need the rest as we gear up for the season), Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Exchange dropped a bit of bad news related to the Colts and the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, QB Andrew Luck. As you know, Luck is not signed to a contract, a contract that probably should be inked and done by this point because the new CBA limits the money rookies can get with their first deal.

So, what's the hold up? Pasquarelli provides the details.

Some team officials, and certainly players from other clubs, privately contend [Peyton] Manning was overexposed. The same level of endorsement work could eventually line Andrew Luck's coffers, but the Colts might have some degree of control over how often their new quarterback's mug is plastered across the TV or on billboards.

One of the stumbling blocks in negotiations between Indianapolis and the top overall choice in the draft, The Sports Xchange has learned, is the proposed inclusion of marketing language that Luck and his representatives, at least so far, regard as strident. One source with knowledge of the talks even suggested that Luck would "have to clear" marketing proposals with the club.

If Pasquarelli 's source is accurate, that is a telling shift from how Colts owner Jim Irsay is doing business these days. Such restrictions were not part of Peyton Manning's contracts when he was throwing touchdowns in Indianapolis. If they were, Manning would not have re-signed in 2004 and 2011, and for good reason. It's not for the Colts to tell a player what products he can or cannot endorse.

It is interesting that the source notes that the reasoning behind the change is because Manning had became "overexposed." It suggests that, for a period of time, Manning was so well-known and popular that he was bigger than the team, bigger than the franchise, and bigger than the owner.

(Note: I didn't need Pasquarelli's source to tell me that. Manning was bigger than the team or the owner. The 13% drop in season ticket renewals after he was cut told everyone that.)

With Irsay possibly changing his policy regarding player endorsements, it's not a big leap to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Irsay does not want his new quarterback to become as powerful inside and outside his organization as his old one was. The Irsay-Manning divorce was awkward, embarrassing, and did more damage to Irsay and his local credibility than it did to Manning's (again, see season ticket renewal in Indianapolis and ticket prices skyrocketing in Denver).

However, in typical Irsay form, the Colts owner took a break from posting meaningless song lyrics and goofy trivia questions on Twitter to blast the Pasquarelli report.

It's worth noting that this is not the first time Irsay has used Twitter to denounce something reported in the media. He did the same thing when St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jim Thomas reported that the Colts reached out to Jeff Fisher as a possible head coaching candidate BEFORE they fired Jim Caldwell. Irsay even managed to get Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz on his side of things related to the Fisher story. This was after Kravitz went on PFT Live two weeks prior to Thomas' story and 'promised' that the Colts were talking to Fisher. Kravitz then attempted to worm his way out of what he said on PFT Live, using an excuse that can best be described as laughable.

To date, Thomas has not retracted the Colts-Fisher story, nor have I seen Kravitz clarify himself after he basically called out the Post-Dispatch beat writer for his report. As far as I know, no one really believes Irsay or Kravitz on this story, and Thomas is considered the more credible of the three (again, that's specific to the Colts-Fisher story).

It's also worth noting that Pasquarelli's sources involving the Colts have seemingly been wrong in the past. Back on March 4th, he reported that despite news that talks between the Colts and then-free-agent-to-be Robert Mathis had "warmed up considerably," according to his sources, there hadn't been any negotiations, substantive or otherwise, between the Colts and Mathis

The very next day, Mathis signed a $36 million dollar deal, and Pasquarelli had egg on his face.

At the end of the day, it's difficult to completely trust Irsay or Pasquarelli here. For months, Irsay has been saying the Luck's contract will happen "soon."

Sorry, but there's only so many times you can get water from that well, Jimmy.

This contract should be done and signed by now, and if there is any language in it that restricts Luck from getting certain endorsements, Pasquarelli 's report will have legitimacy, and Irsay will have some explaining to do.

It is possible the Irsay wants to place language in the contract that allows his team sponsors to match any other sponsors who want to use Luck to pitch their products. Mike Florio explains:

Though we have no inside information regarding the sticking points between the Colts and Luck’s agent-uncle (or uncle-agent), it would be odd for the team to try to restrict his ability to earn money in off-field endeavors. That said, we’ve heard in recent months that some teams have tried to secure for their individual sponsors a right to match any deals a player may do with a competitor.

If, for example, a team has a deal with Pepsi and a player receives an offer to endorse Coke, a team may try to secure the ability on behalf of Pepsi to swoop in and match the terms of the Coke offer. Other than that, it would seem unusual and improper for a team to try to put any contractual limitations on the player’s ability to sell his own image, name, and time.

Again, if you are Andrew Luck, I think you flat out tell Irsay to take a hike on this sort of provision. If Coke offer you X, then you're not interested in Pepsi matching that. I want to put Pepsi in the position to offer more. That's what Manning would do, and I guarantee you Manning would not sign a deal that limits his marketability or his ability to negotiate his own endorsements.

For many of you, I'm sure this sort of stuff bores you to tears. However, it's important because sports is not about the play on the field, or the 'integrity of the game.' Sports is about money, especially when it involves the NFL and franchise quarterbacks.