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Can Andrew Luck become a top-5 quarterback next season?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 25: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass against the New Orleans Saints during a game at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Saints defeated the Colts 27-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Extension details: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Indianapolis Colts have signed QB Andrew Luck to a five-year extension (six-year deal) worth more than $139 million, with $87 million guaranteed.

It was inevitable. Andrew Luck has re-signed with the Colts through the 2021 season. The only thing up for debate was whether or not Luck was going to get paid like the top quarterback in the NFL, even if he realistically hasn’t even been a top-five QB in any single season up to this point in his career. The answer was a resounding “Yes,” with Luck eclipsing the Aaron Rodgers’ cap ($22 million per year) that no one has yet to lay legitimate claim in surpassing.

With the deal done, the new debate is whether or not Luck will ever live up to those lofty expectations. As a rookie out of Stanford in 2012, Luck had more hype following him around than any quarterback this millennium. That season, he had a modicum of early success, but as the Colts had a worst-to-first turnaround, people were quick to crown him. Issues with inaccuracy, holding onto the ball, and decision-making were conveniently glossed over because Indianapolis was winning games. Those problems came to a head in 2015 in what can only be described as a disaster of a season for Indy. Luck managed only two positively-graded games in seven starts, earning below-average passing grades in the five other games. To make matters even worse, it was reported after the season that he may have come back too soon from his shoulder injury, and that the damage was worse than originally believed.

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In the NFL, though, it’s important to remember that you don’t pay for past performance—only what you expect in the future. Luck’s sky-high potential hasn’t changed, and at 26 years old, he’s still mastering the nuances of the professional quarterback position. Tom Brady was 30 when he made his first All-Pro team. Rich Gannon made his first Pro Bowl at age 34, and then went to four straight, culminating in an MVP award. The same things Luck has struggled with—getting the ball out quickly and turnover-worthy throws—are two areas in which we’ve seen QBs consistently improve as they age. In Luck’s last full healthy season of 2014, he made turnover-worthy throws at the seventh-highest rate in the league; however, he made up for it by making big-time throws at the fourth-highest rate in the league. You can’t teach someone to throw as well downfield as he can (he was top-10 in deep-accuracy percentage in two of his first three years). With what figures to be an improved offensive line and a healthy stable of weapons on the outside, the Colts are hoping they can teach Luck to avoid the mistakes that have haunted him in the past.

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