2020 NFL Roster Construction by Salary Range

With rosters largely set in the NFL I wanted to look at how teams are constructing their rosters from a financial perspective. I evaluated every roster in the NFL, ranked them by the new money annual value of players on the team, and then binned the players into separate contract categories to determine what salary range of player dominates the rosters.  Please note that I removed the Covid opt outs from the list of players so some teams were impacted much more because of this.

Overall Spending

Average roster value in the NFL is $202.5 million in 2020. The Texans dominate the NFL in average annual contract value with $263/4M per year invested in their team. This is a major departure from the norms for the Texans who have usually been on the lower end of the salary spectrum, but some big rookie contract extensions and trades for other veterans pushed their numbers. The Eagles are just over $242M at number two. This is no surprise as they have been one of the biggest NFL spenders for years. The same goes for the Saints who come in at number with a roster value of $240.2M. The 49ers and Chiefs round out the top 5.

The bottom team of 2020 is the Jaguars at just $139M. They have taken over the Dolphins spot from last year as the team to just gut the roster. Number 31 are the Patriots who lost around $30M in contract value due to opt outs. They have just $146M per year invested in the team. Number 30 may be surprising to some but it is the Ravens at just $153.7M. The Ravens have a number of rookie contracts at valuable positions and have had some salary cap issues to limit spending. The Jets are way down at $155M and while they did lose expensive LB CJ Mosley to the opt out list many will find this unacceptable when you look at the product on the field. There is a massive jump from the bottom four to the fifth lowest, the Broncos at $172.3M.

Top Tier Spending

The Rams lead the NFL with 8.6% of their roster earning at least $15 million a season. This is double the NFL average of 4.2%. They are one of the few teams with three $20M+ players and they just signed their two receivers to contracts worth over $15 million. The Falcons have 7.4% of their roster over $15 million a year and the Texans are the next team with 7%. The Jets, Patriots and Jaguars are the only teams with no $15M players.  

When we look at $10 million as a threshold the Rams drop considerably as they have a pure stars and scrubs approach. The top team in this class is the Texans. 10.5% of their roster makes between $10 and $15 million a year and a whopping $17.5% make over 10 million. They are the only team in the NFL with at least 10 players making that much. The Browns, Eagles, and Vikings all have 9 players with the Browns and Vikings having 10.3% and 11.7% of their rosters ranking between $10 and $15 million. The Jets have just one player earning $10 million a year, the only team with less than 3 players. The NFL average is 6.6% making between $10 and $15 million and 10.8% over $10 million.

Above Average Spending Tier

9.4% of the rosters in the NFL make between $5 and $10 million a season. This is an area dominated by the Buffalo Bills with 12 players earning that much, 20% of their roster this year. This makes the Bills the only team to have 30% of their roster earning at least $5 million and symbolizes an aggressive free agent approach to building a roster. The Bears are number 2 with 15% between $5 and $10 million (26.7% over $5M overall) and are very similar to the Bills with a reliance on free agency and basically no high end players on the team earning $15M+. This is the area where the Jets make their mark with 14% of their roster earning between $5 and $10 million. This has been their focus of free agency and bumps them from dead last to 27th when we look at just spending over $5 million. The Vikings, Chiefs, and Football Team basically have punted on this area as the only squads with under 5%, well under the NFL average of 9.4%.

Average Spending Tier

About 12.7% of rosters earn between $2.5 and $5 million a year, a category made up of higher draft picks and the lower end of the middle class free agent. Football Team has been built here with 19.7% of their roster earning in this level. The Texans were surprisingly number 2, showing a very different tendency than other expensive spending teams who avoid these areas. This is why the Texans spend so much more than anyone else in the NFL right now. The Raiders also pop here at 19.3%. The Bears are the only team under 5% and the Rams and Colts are both under 6%.

Low Level Spending Tier

The Patriots dominate spending between $1.5 and $2.5 million which is where 19.7% of their roster resides. These salaries represent relatively lower tier free agents, RFA tenders, and 2nd and 3rd round draft picks so that is basically the way the Patriots are built this year. The Bengals are the next team with 15.5% and the Giants are at 15%. The Vikings just don’t even bother with these players at just 1.7% of their roster. The Eagles and Seahawks are also under 5%.

Minimum Vet Level Tier

When we look at salaries between $910K and $1.5 million a year we are mainly looking at minimum salary veterans and 4th/5th round picks. 18.7% of team rosters are made up of these players. The Jaguars take the lead here with 26.2% of their team falling in this low salary range. The Jets are number 2 at 25%. The Chiefs are at 24.1% as you can see that they are offsetting their high priced players generally with lower cost veterans. Arizona is right alongside the Chiefs and followed closely by the Bears and Vikings. The Chargers and Packers are the only teams under 10%.

Minimum Salary Tier

Not surprisingly the bulk of NFL roster make under $910K per year. Over 39% of players fall into this salary range and are the kind of players often fighting each week to stay on the team. The Rams at 55.2% are the top team here. This is clearly the biggest stars and scrubs strategy in the NFL with so much invested over $15M and so much invested at the minimum salary level. 63.8% of their team falls into those two categories, well over the 43.5% NFL average and only 1 of two teams over 60%. That other team is the Packers with 55% of their team earning this minimum level. The Chargers round out the top three at 52.6%.  The Raiders, Texans, and Saints are the teams that are the lowest use levels here.

The table below has the breakdowns and should be sortable if you click on the header. Ill be back next week with a look at overall positional spending for each roster.

TeamTeam APYUnder $910K$910K-$1.5M$1.5-$2.5M$2.5M-$5M$5M-$10M$10-$15M$15M+
Texans$263,483,48528.1%22.8%5.3%19.3%7.0%10.5%7.0%
Eagles$242,330,39740.3%22.6%4.8%11.3%6.5%8.1%6.5%
Saints$240,216,92628.8%18.6%11.9%15.3%13.6%5.1%6.8%
49ers$232,737,03438.1%17.5%9.5%12.7%12.7%3.2%6.3%
Chiefs$231,835,77243.1%24.1%5.2%10.3%3.4%6.9%6.9%
Cowboys$231,713,94439.7%19.0%7.9%14.3%6.3%6.3%6.3%
Cardinals$220,035,52937.9%24.1%5.2%6.9%13.8%8.6%3.4%
Raiders$218,592,60926.3%21.1%8.8%19.3%12.3%8.8%3.5%
Browns$216,731,02034.5%19.0%13.8%10.3%6.9%10.3%5.2%
Bills$216,436,04535.6%13.6%8.5%11.9%20.3%8.5%1.7%
Bears$214,252,78936.7%23.3%10.0%3.3%15.0%10.0%1.7%
Vikings$212,694,66543.3%23.3%1.7%13.3%3.3%11.7%3.3%
Titans$212,288,57635.7%19.6%7.1%12.5%12.5%8.9%3.6%
Colts$211,998,93041.4%22.4%10.3%5.2%8.6%5.2%6.9%
Buccaneers$208,901,01041.0%19.7%11.5%6.6%8.2%8.2%4.9%
Rams$208,321,41555.2%13.8%6.9%5.2%6.9%3.4%8.6%
Chargers$206,773,17952.6%7.0%5.3%10.5%12.3%7.0%5.3%
Lions$205,389,22739.7%15.9%11.1%14.3%11.1%4.8%3.2%
Bengals$204,716,38736.2%13.8%15.5%12.1%10.3%8.6%3.4%
Packers$204,626,81255.0%8.3%8.3%8.3%10.0%5.0%5.0%
Steelers$203,305,18938.2%20.0%5.5%14.5%9.1%7.3%5.5%
Falcons$202,645,92035.2%22.2%5.6%18.5%7.4%3.7%7.4%
Seahawks$193,768,78740.0%23.1%4.6%16.9%7.7%4.6%3.1%
Panthers$183,269,77539.7%17.2%12.1%13.8%6.9%5.2%5.2%
Dolphins$177,288,83738.2%14.5%9.1%18.2%9.1%7.3%3.6%
Giants$174,960,09936.7%15.0%15.0%16.7%8.3%6.7%1.7%
Football Team$174,395,42744.3%13.1%9.8%19.7%4.9%4.9%3.3%
Broncos$172,316,61341.7%15.0%11.7%16.7%5.0%6.7%3.3%
Jets$154,972,93640.6%25.0%6.3%12.5%14.1%1.6%0.0%
Ravens$153,722,92136.2%22.4%10.3%12.1%13.8%3.4%1.7%
Patriots$146,125,31537.7%16.4%19.7%14.8%6.6%4.9%0.0%
Jaguars$139,057,29041.0%26.2%9.8%9.8%6.6%6.6%0.0%
NFL Average$202,497,02739.3%18.7%9.0%12.7%9.4%6.6%4.2%

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC