2016 Cap And Roster Texture Overview

Now that rosters have been finalized for the 2016 regular season, it’s time to take a look at how the textures of each team shape out to be.  I encourage you to take a look at the charts and tables containing texture data at the main page here.  As you do so, in this article I’ll list one aspect that I find interesting for all 32 teams–feel free to comment on your own observations below.

AFC East

  • Buffalo: The Bills have no Elite cap figures and only four players in the High range–thus this is a team that relies heavier on the Middle range than most teams.  Leading the way with Middle cap figures is starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, of which  the first year of his recent contract extension is allowing the team to spend cap dollars elsewhere, as well as to sustain $15.6 million in dead money.
  • Miami: No team is devoting more cap dollars to High level contracts than the Dolphins, with eight such players classified as such.  As a result, only one player (Mario Williams) falls in the Middle range.  This is largely due to a recent restructure of Ndamukong Suh’s contract, as well as this being the final time Ryan Tannehill’s contract will likely avoid falling into the Elite range.
  • New England: Like the Bills, the Patriots are heavy on Middle-range veteran contracts, leading the league as a percentage of cap dollars and being 2nd in all other Middle figures.  The tradeoff is that the Patriots are second to last in players under rookie contracts at 27.  Yet another sign of Bill Belichick being flexible with his roster to account for the talent that he has around him.
  • NY Jets: Like the Dolphins, the Jets are leaders in contracts with High-level cap dollars in 2016.  This includes Ryan Fitzpatrick, even though his $12 million deal was broken into two years for cap purposes with a void year in 2017.

AFC North

  • Baltimore: The Ravens are taking the form of a team reliant on Low-level and rookie contracts, as they have only eight players in the Elite/High/Middle range.  Could this be a side effect of Joe Flacco’s hefty $22.55 million 2016 charge?
  • Cincinnati: The Bengals continue their trend of being a veteran-hefty team while still avoiding large cap charges for any individual player.  Despite holding no contracts with Elite cap numbers, they still lead the league with the number of Elite/High/Middle players at 14.  The Bengals also do this with the lowest dead money in the league at only $511,197.  That’s a great place to be in for a regular playoff contender.
  • Cleveland: If you need any more proof that the Browns have torn down the vestiges of previous regimes, look no further than the following three facts.  First, the Browns lead the league in players under rookie contracts at 44.  Second, they are 2nd in dead money at over $28.3 million, wiping out what they see as mistakes of the past.  Third, despite all that dead money they lead the league in 2016 cap space at $48.4 million.  That means that only 56.2% of Cleveland’s 2016 cap is being spent on players actually on the team.
  • Pittsburgh: The Steelers are a top-heavy team, spending the 3rd most cap dollars on Elite figures, and lead the league in devotion of the percentage of their cap to Elite and High contracts, at 51.8%. If you include the two Middle cap figures as well, the Steelers are spending a higher percentage of their cap (57%) on just eight players than the Browns are on their entire roster (56.2%).

AFC South

  • Houston: The Texans have one of the most balanced textures in the league in 2016, with no figure in either the top five or bottom five.  That could change in 2017 when Brock Osweiler’s cap number jumps from $12 million to $19 million.
  • Indianapolis: The Colts have odd texture in their rookie contracts.  On the one hand, they are second to last in the amount of cap dollars they are devoting to such contracts, but on the other hand, they’re 6th highest as a function of the roster.  High-profile misses in the draft such as Bjoern Werner, D’Joun Smith, and trading for Trent Richardson may account for the anomaly.
  • Jacksonville: The rebuild marches on in Jacksonville, with no team spending more dollars on Middle-ranged contracts than the Jaguars, taking up 26.7% of the cap.  They are also very high on cap space (3rd best) and low on dead money (also 3rd best), so a good position to be in if the rebuild works as planned.
  • Tennessee: The Titans have their own rebuild in the works, and it shows with only ten players on the roster that are not on Low-level veteran or rookie contracts.  Their cap space is also the 4th highest in the league.

AFC West

  • Denver: Even with Peyton Manning gone, the Broncos are still near the top of the league (4th or 5th highest) in resources devoted to Elite/High/Middle contracts, taking up 60% of the cap on 12 players.  Recent extensions to Von Miller, CJ Anderson, and Brandon Marshall accounts for much of the retention of that status quo.
  • Kansas City: Alex Smith and Justin Houston alone occupy 23.7% of the Chiefs’ 2016 cap, the 4th highest amount devoted to Elite contracts.  Thus it must be disappointing that Houston will miss at least the first six weeks of the season due to recovery from ACL surgery.
  • Oakland: Are the Raiders finally done with their spending spree in their rebuild effort?  Their Elite/High/Middle figures look more like the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos than it does like the Jaguars or Titans.  Similar to the Broncos, the Raiders are spending 56.6% of their cap on just 12 players.
  • San Diego: The Chargers are both top heavy and bottom heavy.  Like the Broncos and Raiders they are in the top ten of resources devoted to Elite/High/Middle cap figures.  But they are also high on rookie contracts, in the top five both in cap spending and as a function of roster numbers.

NFC East

  • Dallas: The Cowboys are running their cap space to the brink so far in 2016.  But the good news is that they are also keeping the dead money very low this year, at just over $1 million right now.  That means 99% of their cap expenditures are going to players that are currently on the roster.
  • NY Giants: Balance rules the Giants’ texture, with no contract class taking up more than a quarter of the roster.  The Giants are managing this despite Eli Manning’s Elite 2016 cap figure of $24.2 million.
  • Philadelphia: The cleansing of the Chip Kelly era has stuck the Eagles with the 3rd highest amount of dead money, taking up almost 14% of the cap.  As a result, the Eagles have the lowest cap spending in the league on Elite and High contracts, and instead are infilling with Middle-level cap figures, holding the 3rd highest number of such players at eight.
  • Washington: Using the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins pushes up the Redskins’ devotion to Elite and High level players–in the top ten in cap spending, and 6th on roster spots with six players.

NFC North

  • Chicago: Although more than half of the Bears’ cap is going to 11 players, only one of them (Pernell McPhee) is in the High range of 2016 cap spending.  The rest is taken up by two Elite figures from Jay Cutler and franchise-tagged Alshon Jeffery, with the other 8 going to Middle-level contracts.
  • Detroit: The days of Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson eating up the Lions’ cap space are over, although the latter is contributing to the 5th highest dead money total in the league.  Now, there is a hefty space between Matt Stafford’s 2016 cap number of $22.5 million, and the 2nd highest of Riley Reiff at just over $8 million.
  • Green Bay: The Packers continue to pay their homegrown stars very well. Once again they lead the league in cap spending devoted to the Elite/High/Middle aggregate classes: 11 players take up 63.6% of the cap in over $100 million in cap dollars.  But the Packers balance that out by continuing to build through the draft: they are in the top five with respect to the roster in rookie contracts with 41.
  • Minnesota: The recent trade for Sam Bradford pushed up the Vikings’ devotion to High-level contracts.  They are 5th overall in all categories with respect to both cap spending and roster spots.

NFC South

  • Atlanta: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones alone are taking up a quarter of the cap, the second highest cap spending in the league on Elite contracts.  But they also lead the league in cap spending on Low-level veteran contracts, with the 3rd most players on the roster with 21.  To offset that, the Falcons have no High-level cap figures, and only three Middle-level ones (Tyson Jackson, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack).
  • Carolina: By letting Josh Norman walk, it reduces the amount of resources devoted to Elite/High/Middle cap figures.  Only seven such players are in those classes, 29th overall in the league.
  • New Orleans: No team has sustained more dead money in 2016 than the Saints, eating up 22.6% of their cap.  As a result, they only have five players with Elite/High/Middle cap figures–and Drew Brees is taking up the lion’s share of that with his $30 million cap number, 19% of the Saints’ cap.
  • Tampa Bay: Trying to emerge from a rebuild, the Bucs are filling the gap with contracts with High-level cap figures.  Seven of those players are taking up 43.1% of their 2016 cap, 2nd highest in the league in all categories.

NFC West

  • Arizona: The Cardinals are the only team in the league with three Elite cap figures (Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell).  While that obviously means they are far and away the leader in that class, they offset it by more modest, but still existent cap spending on High and Middle level veteran contracts to place the aggregation of all three at just 3rd highest in the league.
  • Los Angeles: The effects of the Robert Griffin III trade still result in the Rams devoting the highest percentage of their cap to rookies, at $25.8%.  But now that they are on the other end of such a trade by acquiring Jared Goff, it will be interesting to see if that proportion falls rapidly in future years.
  • San Francisco: The 49ers’ texture gives off the impression that they are planning for the future, holding the 2nd highest amount of cap space in the league.  Furthermore, their only Elite cap figure belongs to Colin Kaepernick, of which there is much doubt of whether his future in San Francisco will go beyond 2016.
  • Seattle: With most, if not all, of their stars accounted for in contract extensions, this is leading the Seahawks to rely on draft picks to fill the rest.  Two-thirds of their roster consists of 44 players on rookie contracts, tied with the Browns for the highest in the league.
  • ToreBear

    Would it be possible to use the Avg./Year instead of the cap numbers? I feel like the Avg./Year salary gives a better idea of the players status on the roster and the teams commitment to that player.

    • Nick

      The problem with APY is that it represents the complete contract, and in most cases that contract won’t be fully fulfilled. Sticking with cap dollars, in my opinion, helps to measure just exactly how teams are balancing out the distribution of the money they do pay out in order to build their franchise.

      • ToreBear

        As I see it, the way teams manage the cap is very diverse. Often there seem to be a lot of moving the cap hit to other years. That means new important signings wont show up in the graphics, while it is an essential part of the weight the team puts into that position that year, but also in the near future.

        Average is not perfect, but I think it gives an idea of the long term plan a team has. the cap number is more like a picture, while the average is more like a video sequence. The context is better available for the average numbers IMHO.

  • ConservativeChas

    Would someone please explain to me how a team (the Saints) who are listed at being $2.8 MM OVER the cap can re-sign Drew Brees to a contract which guarantees him $44 MM over the next two years? Sum ting wong.