With what has to be increasing concern over Andrew Luck’s durability, just how valuable is backup Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts?
After a healthy season in 2018, Andrew Luck has practiced less than five times since April due to a lingering calf strain. His status for Week 1 or beyond is not in serious doubt yet, but that could change quickly and backup Jacoby Brissett would be thrust into meaningful action for one of the rising teams in the league.
A relatively simple muscle issue would be one thing, with caution the word regardless of how severe Luck’s calf strain might be. But speaking on Sirius XM NFL radio Monday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fueled further concern by saying Luck is dealing with a “small little bone issue.”
Luck missed the entire 2017 season after surgery on his throwing shoulder in January of that year. He missed one game in 2016, after missing nine games in 2015 due to the first occurrence of the right shoulder issue and a lacerated kidney. Approaching his 30th birthday (Sept. 12), Luck’s durability has to be a huge concern for the Colts.
Luck has three years left on his contract, at rates that are a bargain if he is on the field and performing to his full capability. He’ll make $21.125 million this year, $22 million next year and $21 million in 2021. It’s worth noting the dead money hits fall substantially after this year, but Luck is not going anywhere.
Brissett is making $890,114 in the final year of his rookie contract this year. After being acquired by the Colts late in the 2017 preseason he started 15 games in Luck’s place that season, with some ups (3,098 passing yards, two 300-yards passing games, 260 rushing yards, 17 total touchdowns) and downs (a league-high 52 sacks taken, 58.8 percent completion rate, 6.6 yards per attempt).
Given the situation he stepped into, with a talent-depleted team around him, Brissett did about as well as he could have in his most extensive NFL action to date. The Colts clearly hold him in high regard, with a continued suggestion they won’t trade him and a report they turned down an offer of a second-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks in 2018.
Though he won’t get a huge contract, Brissett should find opportunities to start on the open market next March.
Looking at the base salaries for NFL quarterbacks this year, the first backup (Chase Daniel) comes in at $4 million. Case Keenum ($3.5 million), Nate Sudfeld ($3.095), Colt McCoy ($3 million) and Brian Hoyer ($2.8 million) come in after that. Brissett would have a strong argument to surpass all of the above signal callers in base salary if he hits the market next March.
Right now for this year, after not making any huge splashes in free agency, the Colts are carrying the most salary cap space in the league ($43.629 million, via Spotrac). Looking ahead to next year, they currently have over $73.7 million in cap space (second-most in the league). That will allow them to aggressively add outside pieces as they see fit, or lock up players the want to keep around.
Despite not being able to offer a clear opportunity to play, the Colts can compete financially on a multi-year deal to keep Brissett as their backup to Luck.
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It will ultimately come down to what else is out there for Brissett on the open market, under the assumption he won’t get a contract extension before then, and his desire to leave Indianapolis for an opportunity to start. But the Colts have to continue to value him very highly, and regardless of what happens during the coming season they’ll need to be ready to make Brissett the highest-paid backup in the league.