Had some good feedback on the best and worst value team’s article I wrote last week and a request for breaking things down by offensive and defensive spending. That sounded like a good idea to me so I’ll do offense here and then next week make the turn to defense. The metric’s we’ll use here to compare the team’s performance to spending will be Football Outsiders Weighted DVOA for offense and my scoring efficiency metric, which is basically the percentage a team scores above or below their specific opponent’s adjusted average points allowed. I’ll include the salary of kickers and long snappers in salary matrix, even though they are not going to contribute to the DVOA of the team’s offense. The following plot shows the teams spending on offense vs their performance with the size of the bubble indicating the ratio of money spent on offense vs defense.
There are no super values here the way their were for the overall teams, but the Titans and Raiders both stand out as the best values with the Titans probably giving a bit more value. The standout feature for both teams of course is a cheap quarterback. That is huge in today’s NFL as 23 teams have a quarterback whose APY is greater than 10% of this year’s salary cap.
With the Lions about to sign Matt Stafford to what will be the highest contract ever paid to a player they will likely track close to a team like the Eagles next year assuming no more moves are made. They will need to improve so they will need to get creative to improve without killing their financials. The Bengals track pretty close to even but have a (relatively) lower cost QB in Andy Dalton locked up so they should continue to be around the value tier. The Panthers are about average but may have an opportunity to slip more into the value tier if they can draft a competent receiver once they get contract’s like Jonathan Stewart’s off the books.
Hitting the Mark
Though these team’s are spending a great deal the best bang for the buck is really in this tier. The Falcons are the best value offense in the NFL and I’m not sure it’s even close. Basically the Falcons have two highly paid stars, a high priced center, and a bunch of value players everywhere else. They are pretty well positioned with only Ryan Schraeder set for a bigger size contract and he does not play a premier position. New Orleans, Buffalo and New England are also putting up good value on offense, two behind the strength of the QB position and the other from their running game. It should be noted that Atlanta and New England do have a massive focus on offensive compared to defensive payroll.
Dallas spends a fortune on offense and has done well, but most of that has been with their two most expensive talents, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, on the sideline. The Steelers have done well but with a big contract extension possible for Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell next year they may need to improve or find a way to stay healthy/suspension free for 16 games. They also have a lot invested on offense right now compared to the defense so they may have hoped for slightly better results.
The other squad listed are still above average but outside of Philadelphia I could see them being somewhat disappointed by their overall results, especially the Packers. Washington could be interesting in the future because their production from their receivers is not great and it was surprising that they kept both on the team this year. Even if they sign Kirk Cousins to a big contract, they will probably move down the salary chain. That said they, the Colts, Chargers, and Packers are all putting a lot into their offense and while they are getting above average showings they are not getting the Falcons, Patriots, and Cowboys showings like they were hoping.
Get What you Pay For
The Dolphins, Giants, Seahawks, and Buccaneers are all likely accepting of what their offenses have done so far. None are big spenders and they have invested much more on defense so an average go of it on offense would be expected to bring the team success if the defense performs well.
The 49ers and Browns still continue to get the distinction of not really trying though they did have more invested in this side of the ball. All things considered they are where they should be. I think you can also throw Denver in this tier of not really investing much on offense, but unlike the other two teams that money went into the defense which has been money well spent.
Arizona is right on the border when it comes to spending so they are almost in the underperforming category. They have been disappointing and I think it could be a very real question next year as to what they should look to do with their quarterback spot and have backing up Carson Palmer.
The Jaguars and Texans both spent on the defense but they still are among the worst values in the NFL. If you put draft capital into the equation with the Jaguars they would really plummet. It would be shocking if they didn’t get a big overhaul in the offseason. Houston probably could use one as well but its more likely they just continue to churn through quarterbacks.
The Rams are in a class all to themselves. Their only saving grace was that they at least didn’t spend to the average, but the performance is so low that isn’t much to be proud of. Come next season once they bring their young QB on the field for 16 games they have to do so much better. The investment in he and Todd Gurley is too much to be anywhere near this level again.
The Jets would be similar to Arizona in that they are average spenders getting poor performance. Unlike Arizona there is no question the Jets need a quarterback next season.
The Vikings have some big money on the sidelines with Adrian Peterson going down early in the year, but they gave up so much for Sam Bradford that the loss of Peterson isn’t an excuse for them. They have used both money and draft picks to build this offense and the results are underwhelming. Kansas City is in a similar situation and these last few weeks should be a referendum on Alex Smith and his future with the team.
The Ravens and Bears are two of the worst values in the NFL. Baltimore has so much money sunk into Joe Flacco that they have cut corners elsewhere and Flacco is not the kind of player to carry a team. Despite that a great deal of focus on their annual spending is on this offensive unit and they are in the wrong tier for that to be the case. The Bears have been a mess for some time and still are dealing with some bad decisions from a few years back but they only have themselves to blame for bringing back Alshon Jeffery on a one year contract.
Of the top 14 teams with the highest offense to defense spending ratio only the Bears, Vikings, and Ravens are below average.
In general the teams who spend on offense have done well overall. Of the top 16 teams in our look at overall value 12 of them spent above the average on offense and all of those teams are investing more dollars by a significant margin on this side of the ball with an average offense to defense spending of 1.36 to 1(the Eagles are the only team spending more on defense in this group). That doesn’t mean that the offense is the only reason they are doing well as teams like the Chiefs have sputtered on offense despite the high salaried offense.
That brings up what I think might be a good exercise and that is to value draft selections using the OTC trade matrix or changing the size of the bubbles to rookie contract starters to get a better idea of the investment on any side of the ball. If teams are spending more on offense does that mean they are getting defensive performance by focusing on rookies or are they focusing on really beefing up the offense through the draft. I think that gives a truer picture of the impact of spending on performance as this may under or overstate the real investment in a unit. I’ll get a better idea when I run through the defense next week, but I have a feeling I’ll have the same conclusion…and a project to work on this winter.
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.