Colts coach Chuck Pagano enters pivotal season under unsettling circumstances

It has been four years since the Colts last won their NFL season opener, but even before the result of their visit Sunday to play the Rams is established, it is obvious they’re off to a rough start this year. Because coach Chuck Pagano will send out Scott Tolzien to open at quarterback instead of Andrew Luck.

What this means for the Colts is they will be employing a quarterback with three career starts and no career wins, with two career touchdowns and seven career interceptions, instead of the guy who won 61 percent of his games until his shoulder went to heck.

What it means for Pagano is less clear.

David Johnson, RB, Cardinals: With a base salary this year of $615,000, Johnson is probably the biggest bargain in the NFL. Johnson is in the third year of his rookie contract and the 2015 third-round pick from Northern Iowa is likely looking at a rich contract extension next year. Johnson ran for 1,239 yards last season and his 16 rushing touchdowns ranked second in the league while his 20 total scores were an NFL-high.

Zack Martin, OG, Cowboys: Martin was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three NFL seasons. Now in the fourth year of his rookie contract, Martin will earn $1.64 million this season. Martin is one of the best guards in football and a key piece in the league’s best offensive line. The Cowboys already picked up his fifth-year option, which is worth $9.341 million. That’s a pretty nice bump, but for this season, he’s underpaid.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: Like Martin, Cooks was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft. After consecutive 1,100-yard seasons, the Saints traded Cooks to the Patriots in March. New England will pay Cooks just $781,599 this year, a bona fide bargain for a productive receiver who gets to play with Tom Brady. The Patriots did pick up the fifth-year option, so Cooks is looking at $8.46 million next year and Cheap Quality Jerseys likely Cheap Patriots Jerseys a long-term deal if things go well this season.

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