NFL Salary Cap and Super Bowl Champions, Part III- Current NFL Teams

In the first part of our series we looked at the percentage of a Super Bowl Champions salary cap that was spent on the top players on their team. In part two we looked at positional spending on the Super Bowl Champions. Now we turn our focus to the 2014 NFL season and see just what teams are built like a champion and which teams are not.

Top Player Spending

Top NFL Player Spending- 2014

Six NFL teams are spending more on one player than any team that had ever won a Super Bowl in the salary cap era, which was set by the 1994 49ers at 13.1%. Those teams are the Lions, Giants, Steelers, Bears, Saints, and Rams.   All but the Lions have their cap money spent on the quarterback position, which is normal. The Lions money is spent on a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Only one SB champ spent the most cap dollars on that position.

The lowest amount of spending was done by the 2000 Ravens at just 6.7%. Seven teams will be under that mark this season. Those teams are the Eagles, Jaguars, Bengals, Titans, Colts, Raiders, and the 49ers, who surprisingly have the lowest spend on a top player in the entire NFL.

The teams who fall closest to the average are the Seahawks, Cowboys, Jets, Cardinals, Redskins, and Chiefs. What is somewhat surprising is that of that group just the Cardinals have the most money spent on the QB position. The Cowboys, Jets, and Redskins have their money tied into positions that have been the top charges on a team before. The other three do not, though the Seahawks set a new mark last year when they won a Super Bowl with a tight end as their top cap position.

Top 3 Cap Spending

Top 3 NFL Player Spending- 2014

The Lions are in a different universe when it comes to top heavy spending in 2014, with 38.6% tied up in their top 3 players.  The next closest team is the Rams with 30.9%, though a big chunk of that is already on injured reserve. The top spending on the cap by a Super Bowl winner was done by the 2002 Buccaneers at 27.8%. The Lions, Rams, Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Giants are all above that level. Our low spending champion was again the 2000 Ravens at just 17.4%. In 2014 the Jaguars, Eagles, Raiders, 49ers, and Colts are all below that figure.

Our most average teams are the Bills, Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Browns, and Patriots, and Dolphins. Buffalo is one of those teams with a heavy portion of their spending not actually on the roster. Two of their top three cap charges are being spent on released/traded players- Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. New England also has big money tied up in a released player with Aaron Hernandez carrying the second highest cap charge on the team. The Falcons and Cardinals have the most traditional breakdown by position of this group.

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Top 5 Cap Spending

Top 5 NFL Player Spending- 2014

Our two top 5 extremes remain the same in the 2002 Bucs and the 2000 Ravens. Eight teams are currently spending more than those Buccaneers. The Lions, Rams, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Saints, Buccaneers, and Bears would all set a new high mark if they were to advance to a Super Bowl this season. The Titans, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Colts, and Raiders would all set new low marks if they were to advance.

Our closest to average teams are the Chargers, Vikings, Bills, Browns, Falcons, and Patriots. Neither the Browns nor the Vikings have a QB make their top 5 in spending.

Top 10 Spending

Top 10 NFL Player Spending- 2014

The Buccaneers and Ravens were again the two extremes as champions at 56% and 44.4% respectively. We have eight teams spending above 56% of their adjusted cap on the top 10 and seven spending below. The teams above are the Rams, Steelers, Texans, Lions, Bears, Ravens, Buccaneers, and Panthers. Those below are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Titans, Jets, Jaguars and Raiders.

The teams that would be closest to the average range are the Giants, Cardinals, Redskins, Browns, Bengals , Bills, and Falcons.

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Putting it all Together

Three teams would set a new high in every category if they were to win the Super Bowl this year. Those teams are the Rams, Steelers, and Lions. From a salary cap perspective these would be the three most unlikely teams to advance to the Super Bowl. Five teams would set new lows in every category if they won the Super Bowl. Those teams are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and Raiders.

When we look at just three categories you can add the Bears, Ravens, and Saints to the high list and the Titans to the low list. The most average teams, which hit the average mark in 3 of the 4 categories, were the Cardinals, Browns, Bills, and Falcons. Of those teams the Cardinals and Falcons would have the most normal positional breakdowns and would also likely be considered to be the only ones with the talent to make the playoffs.

If we score each category by calculating the percentage below or above the average and then sum the values together we can get a better idea as to just how far away each team is from the average Super Bowl spending habits. Breaking it down per category the average NFL team score is an 18.5% difference from the average Super Bowl winner’s cap spending breakdown.

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The Lions winning the Super Bowl would really be something extraordinary. They average 52.9% per category from the average. That’s nearly 3 times greater than the average and its 19.1% more than the next closest team. It’s a method of constructing a team that has simply never been successful in the NFL and they would be the first to ever do it. The Rams, Steelers, Raiders, and Ravens make up the remainder of the top 5 and the Giants, 49ers, Colts, Bears, and Saints round out the top 10 least likely winners.

The teams with the least percentage difference are the Cardinals, Vikings, Browns, Redskins, Patriots, Cowboys, and Seahawks. These teams exhibited less than 10% difference from the average per category. The Patriots and Seahawks are certainly favorites in the NFL. The Cowboys are a team that manages the cap on a year by year basis to help manipulate numbers which has them coming in pretty normal this season.

The following table will show the percentage of cap spent on each category and the average percentage difference per category. The table should sort itself if you click on the header.

Team% Cap Spending, Top Player% Cap Spending, Top 3 Players% Cap Spending, Top 5 Players% Cap Spending, Top 10 PlayersAvg. Percent Difference Per Category
Lions16.9%38.6%45.8%59.5%52.9%
Rams13.3%30.9%43.2%61.5%33.7%
Steelers14.1%30.3%40.8%59.9%32.6%
Raiders6.1%16.3%23.8%39.8%27.5%
Ravens12.2%30.0%42.2%57.9%27.3%
Giants15.4%28.0%37.3%51.5%26.5%
49ers5.5%16.0%25.8%42.6%26.2%
Colts6.1%15.6%24.5%42.7%26.0%
Bears13.9%27.1%38.5%57.9%25.6%
Saints13.8%28.9%39.0%52.6%25.1%
Jaguars6.4%17.1%24.7%40.0%24.9%
Eagles6.4%16.5%25.2%43.1%23.6%
Texans11.7%28.0%40.8%59.7%23.6%
Titans6.2%17.9%26.1%41.5%22.9%
Panthers11.8%27.0%37.8%56.5%18.7%
Buccaneers11.2%26.5%38.8%57.6%17.9%
Packers12.3%26.7%35.4%52.6%16.0%
Bengals6.4%18.9%29.4%48.7%15.0%
Broncos12.2%25.0%35.6%53.7%14.6%
Chargers12.2%25.0%33.2%47.7%12.0%
Jets9.0%19.9%27.8%41.1%12.0%
Dolphins11.4%21.1%29.5%44.6%11.6%
Chiefs8.6%25.6%37.0%54.3%11.5%
Falcons12.8%23.0%31.4%48.6%11.2%
Bills12.4%23.8%32.3%48.6%10.4%
Seahawks9.8%24.9%36.1%54.8%9.0%
Cowboys9.1%24.2%35.6%52.8%6.9%
Patriots10.6%21.2%31.0%47.8%6.6%
Redskins8.7%24.3%34.5%49.8%5.9%
Browns7.8%21.9%32.3%49.1%5.5%
Vikings10.8%22.4%32.6%53.1%5.2%
Cardinals8.7%23.2%34.5%51.4%5.2%
Average10.4%23.9%33.8%50.7%18.5%

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  • buk

    Congrats to Patriots and as a Jet fan their victory is a very bitter pill to swallow. Jason I hope you point out on next podcast that the Patriots made it to and won the Superbowl because of the decisions they made in the offseason. I’ve said here many times I could not believe the Jets or any other team did not pursue Edelman in FA 2yrs straight and last night he was a gutty and more clutch reincarnation of Wes Welker. The Patriots also signed their top starting corners in Revis and Browner on 1yr deals. Idzik pursued none of these players and Jet fans must endure watching the best position player in the last 20yrs win a Superbowl with the rival Pats.
    All that said I expect the Jets and Bills to be very aggressive this offseason and it will be difficult for Pats to keep McCourty,Browner and Revis. In typical Pats fashion I expect them to cut Wilfork(unless he agrees to big paycut) and cut Amendola.
    In my opinion Brady and Bellichick are the best QB and Coach in NFL history. 6 Superbowl appearances, 4 victories and over a decade of dominance in an era of free agency when the roster has been completely turned over many times. Amazing.