With the turn to Tuesday NFL rosters are now largely complete so we can take a look at how some of the teams stack up. Though there are a few stragglers on the rosters (injured players who will be released with settlements) and a few players we don’t yet have contract information on the numbers are good enough to begin looking at the roster construction. As time allows we’ll try to do a few different looks at the NFL between now and Sunday’s first set of games, but here we’ll start off with just how much teams have invested in the rosters.
The Big Spenders
There are seven teams in the NFL that go into the season with rosters whose average annual value tops $190 million. The biggest spender by far is the Jaguars who have $224.9 million in contracts on their team. More than half their money is spent on non-homegrown players as the Jaguars have gone into the non-minimum areas of free agency as much as almost any team in the NFL. They are tied for second in the NFL with 8 players who earn more than $10 million a season.
The Vikings are second with $212.7 million in contracts. They have the highest amount of $10M or greater players in the NFL with 9 which is more or less reflective of their offseason which saw them sign Kirk Cousins and extend Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings have been aggressive for the past few years in an attempt to make the playoffs and it paid off last season. They are all in on the team and it should largely be the same squad the next three years.
The Rams are the final team with over $200 million in contracts. They have been ultra aggressive this offseason with trades and contract extensions. With their signings of Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald they have the two largest contracts in the NFL relative to the position. Still with all the maneuvering they rank 8th in the number of homegrown players on the roster as they have tried to fill out a large chunk of the team with players they are familiar with.
The Bears, fresh off their Khalil Mack signing, and Super Bowl champion Eagles both sit right around $197 million. The Bears have had difficulties with the draft and have spent in free agency to fill voids which is why their payroll is so high. They have spent nearly $121 million on non-homegrown players, second to only the Jaguars. They have a young team so they may be able to get by with a non-playoff season but if they don’t show major improvements and potential their front office may be in trouble.
The Eagles were more or less the Vikings a few years ago locking into high priced extensions to get a stable roster for the next 3 or 4 years. It paid off with a Super Bowl. This is more or less the window for Philadelphia. They have 11 non-QB, special teamers who will be at least 30 by the end of this year, 4th in the NFL. With $54M invested in those players it is the highest spend on older talent in the league.
The final two teams are the Packers and Steelers, who both go into the season with around $192 million per year invested in the team. The Packers are a big drafting team with only 13 contracts with players who they did not draft or sign as an undrafted free agent. Only two teams have fewer outsiders. In many ways they are constructed like the Vikings with a very high spend on homegrown veterans but of course with Aaron Rodgers instead of a free agent QB.
The Steelers are always a big spender with heavy investments in their own players, but also a willingness to go outside the organization to find some talent. The Steelers have $143 million invested in their own players and generally don’t let anyone they can find a role for leave in free agency.
The Non Spenders
The Bills, who made the playoffs the last season, have by far the cheapest roster in the NFL. Their salary cap was a mess this season and they traded away as many parts as they could as they try to overhaul the roster. With just a $124 million roster they are $20 million lower than the 31st ranked team. It’s almost hard to believe but they have the lowest spend on veteran players and third lowest spend on non-veterans which means they haven’t even been able to find ways to maximize draft picks. Despite all their issues they employ 13 players of 30+ age. Their issues date back to the Rex Ryan era and with just 19 homegrown players they have the least direction in the league.
Ryan Grigson left the Colts a mess and they continue to just sit around and do little while waiting for Andrew Luck to return. They have $146 million in contracts but with a high IR list so expect that to fall by a few million after players reach settlements. Unlike the Bills this is a more traditional approach to a roster with 55 players on rookie deals and just 19 veterans, only five of whom will crack the 30 year barrier.
Though the Cowboys are known as big spenders the team has been very conservative the last two seasons leaving with a $153 million roster. This is in part because of the salary cap where they have had some issues because of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant but overall they have taken a more cautious approach to their contracts. With a QB, RB, and DE likely all looking for new deals starting next year don’t expect Dallas to remain here for too long.
The Ravens are another team hamstrung with cap concerns much of which is because of bad decisions made with the contract of Joe Flacco on two occasions. The Ravens rarely go outside the organization to sign players, with the 2nd least amount of non-homegrown players, but unlike the Packers and Steelers they have lost talent in free agency which may have to do with the cap.
The Cardinals are in a stage where they are coming down from a playoff contender run and trying to piece the roster together. They still have big money invested in the top with three players earning over $14 million a season but it all falls from there. They have struggled finding talented players in the draft which has led to 33 outside signings, tied for third most in the NFL. They have a number of older players (13) and perhaps more than any team in the NFL they are trying to rebuild on the fly which is difficult.
The final sub $160 million team is the New York Jets with a $158 million roster. That number may be a bit misleading as $10 million of the team is tied up in their backup QB so it’s fair to place them closer to the Colts in terms of expectations. The team has still struggled with the draft and are investing more in mid/low tier veterans than most others. The Jets have the 6th fewest homegrown players in the NFL and 2nd lowest salary among those players.
The Full NFL Spending Chart
Here are some of the various salary rankings for each team in the NFL. Please note that the Chiefs total does not include a recent extension for Cameron Erving which will push them over the $160 million number. The table should be sortable by clicking on the header.
|Team||Total||APY||Vets.||Veteran APY||Rookies||Rookie APY||Homegrown Players||Homegrown APY||Outside Players||Outside APY|
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.