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Dungy among NFL's highest paid coaches

9/14/2005 - Indianapolis Colts

Already viewed as one of the NFL's premier coaches, Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts is now in an elite tax bracket as well.

The three-year contract extension Dungy signed over the weekend, which binds him to the Colts through the 2009 season, is worth about $15 million, and the $5 million average puts him into a small fraternity. Dungy is in the fourth season of his original five-year, $13 million deal, a contract that ran through 2006.

"It's something that was pretty easy to do," Colts owner Jim Irsay told the Indianapolis Star. "He knew how much I wanted him to be here for an extended period of time, and I don't have any problem making him paid with the top people in the profession, which he deserves. ... Getting an extension for him was really important for the franchise."

Irsay has opened his checkbook in the past two years to keep key players with landmark contracts and, given his admiration for Dungy, neither the contract nor its value were surprising. It had not been known, though, before Sunday's announcement of the extension that the two sides were actively discussing a new deal.

Even with coaches' salaries spiraling dramatically upward in recent seasons, there are only a handful in the $5 million-per-year category.

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is believed to be the NFL's highest paid coach -- salaries in the profession are closely guarded -- earning $5.7 million to $5.8 million per year. But Gibbs also holds the title of team president. Dungy's lone title, unlike many of his peers who nominally hold vice president status, is head coach.

Among the other head coaches believed to be in the $5 million-per-year fraternity: Mike Shanahan (Denver), Mike Holmgren (Seattle), Jeff Fisher (Tennessee), Steve Mariucci (Detroit) and Bill Belichick (New England).

The pricey extension could be the last one Dungy ever signs. At age 49, Dungy already has indicated he has other interests he will eventually want to pursue, and has insisted he will not be a "lifer" in the NFL. He has also reiterated on several occasions that the Colts' job will be his last in coaching. He will be 54 when the new extension expires and might be ready at that point to move on to something else.

This is Dungy's 10th season as a head coach. He has compiled a 93-63 record in stints with Tampa Bay (1996-2001) and Indianapolis (2002-present), and his teams have been in the playoffs in seven of the previous nine seasons. The Colts have been to the playoffs in each of Dungy's three seasons with the franchise.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.