Depending on what happens with the upcoming college bargaining agreement negotiations, Andrew Luck either left $40 million on the table by returning to Stanford or nothing at all.
If the league gets its way and enacts a rookie wage scale for the upcoming season, Luck wouldn't stand to lose much money by waiting to come out a year. Let's say the NFL enacts a slotted deal for the No. 1 pick. Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole suggested in a Thursday piece that the scale would go as follows:
In a Dec. 17 op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Green Bay Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy threw out the concept of the No. 1 pick getting a five-year deal worth a maximum of $15 million with $5 million guaranteed. Nice money, but it pales in comparison to the six-year, $78 million contract, including $50 million guaranteed, that Sam Bradford(notes)(notes) got as the No. 1 pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 draft.
Assuming Luck goes with the top pick next year (which, as Matt Leinart(notes) would tell you, is a big assumption), the rookie scale will be the same. It may even be a little more, if it goes up incrementally like the NBA's.
However, if the wage scale doesn't get enacted for this season and is implemented in 2012 instead, Luck may have missed out on as much as $40 million in guaranteed money.
Andrew Luck knows all this and he made his decision anyway. His father is the athletic director at West Virginia University, played quarterback in the NFL and managed a World League team. It was probably a well-informed choice.
If Andrew is happy with his choice (and let's face it; the only way you stay in school is if you're really, really sure) then why should we care how much money he potentially left on the table? People love to say that "money isn't everything" and then act shocked when a guy like Luck passes up guaranteed millions to go back to school or because Cliff Lee passes up more money from the Yankees to go play in Philly.
As for the question of who the Panthers will pick at No. 1 instead of Luck, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley are candidates to make the money Luck passed up.