The only question looming this offseason about a new contract for Colts QB Andrew Luck was when exactly it would be announced, and we got our answer to that on Wednesday with the announcement of his new 6-year, $140 Million contract that'll keep him in Indianapolis at least through the 2021 season. While the extension was a formality, I'm sure both he and the Colts had a sigh of relief once his name was on the dotted line.
There is one thing I do find surprising about his new deal: the length of it. I thought it was going to be longer, but I think it's a sign that Luck was willing to take slightly less money now in a shorter deal, with the intention of using the prime years of his career (the next six) to give himself a monster contract at age 32, when the salary cap will be much larger than the current level. Remember, QBs nowadays can play at an elite level until their late 30s, so he'll still have plenty left in the tank after this contract expires. The Colts would have benefited with another two or three years to spread his signing bonus out (and keep him under contract longer), but I actually think this is a positive for the Colts. A motivated Luck in his prime is exactly who they want leading this team, and if he can help the Colts win a Super Bowl, they'll be more than happy to pay him north of $30 Million per season.
So how exactly does Andrew Luck live up to the expectations of having the richest contract in the NFL (for now at least)? First off, he won't be able to skate by on "rookie mistakes" any more. When he makes mistakes, he needs to own them, learn from them, and don't do them again. He's always been hard on himself, and the part of him that tries to extend plays is certainly exciting to watch, but it can't come at the expense of Turnovers (which he's been bad at for the last season and a half he's played in) or injuries.
Speaking of that, Luck absolutely must stay healthy. Obviously the Colts never want anyone injured, especially Luck, but in theory the Colts should have been better equipped, salary-wise, to handle Luck being out for an extended time. We all saw what happened last year with Luck being fairly cheap, so they could spend a little more on other players, and they were not good at all. Now, with a lot more money tied up into Luck, he needs to stay on the field as much as possible. It started with the emphasis on the Offensive Line in the draft, and all the hoopla surrounding Luck's new-found ability to slide, but it's all pointing to helping the same thing: keeping Luck healthy.
Now with his future secure, my hope is that Luck will now start to have more influence on the Offense, especially since he'll have his third Offensive Coordinator in five years starting in 2016 (I don't count the 1 game under Rob Chudzinski last year as working under him). Luck needs to be more assertive with philosophy and in-game situations, basically becoming what we saw with Peyton Manning. He's got a long way to go to get to that level, but he certainly has all the tools to do it. In 2021 it should be the Andrew Luck Offense the Colts are running, and it should be a top 5 NFL Offense, just like we saw through the mid-2000s in Manning's prime.
What about the rest of the Colts? As of right now, according to Over the Cap, the Colts have a little over $13.6 Million left in cap space in 2016, and I think that would be best served as carry-over into 2017, which I believe they can do (I'm no cap expert by any means). There really is nobody they can get today that'll make a significant impact this season, so it's best to wait, roll it into 2017 (where they have $42 Million currently), and they'll be able to better address any holes that come about this season. Colts GM Ryan Grigson hasn't really had to be money-conscious his first four years, but now it'll be his primary job, and what will ultimately decide his fate as the Colts GM.
A Super Bowl victory is never a sure thing, even as touchdown favorites in the game (ask the Panthers), so expecting a Super Bowl win by the Colts and led by Andrew Luck should not be an expectation over the next six years, but the correct expectation should be they're in position to win one each and every year, which means making the Playoffs, hosting games in late January, and having a puncher's chance, something they did in each of Luck's first three seasons. A whole myriad of things can happen to deny a Super Bowl season (remember, only one teams wins each year), so this contract won't be a failure if the Colts don't win a Championship. It'll be a failure, however, if they aren't in contention each and every year.