Though rosters are still in a state of flux of sorts and there are a handful of recent extensions we don’t yet have concrete details on I thought this would be a good time to look at the current makeup of the 2017 NFL rosters.
Roster By Contract Type
Here is the general roster construction by roster type and the percentage of money spent on each type of contract.
|Type||% of Rosters||% of NFL Annual Salary||% of NFL Full Guar.||% of NFL Inj. Guar|
Not surprisingly the NFL is loaded with young talent with over 63% coming via the draft, the undrafted process, rights controlled players, and street free agents who have minimal service time in the NFL. Of course from a financial perspective this is all cheap labor. Despite making up over 60% of the workforce they make up under 26% of salaries and total contractual guarantees.
The richest contracts come from those signing extensions. That doesn’t mean free agency isn’t all its cracked up to be its just that the best players at the most expensive positions (QB, DE, CB, etc…) all generally re-sign before their contracts expire. It’s a crazy number when you think about it. Just 8.9% of all players this year signed early yet they control 31% of the NFL wealth and 38% of the guaranteed salary.
Leaguewide the most money is spent on unrestricted free agents, though we consider UFAs anyone who signs a contract after their last contract expired even if technically they are re-signing with their former team before the free agent frenzy officially begins.
When you look at those two designations along with the franchise tag we are talking about 30% of the NFL controlling about 70% of the wealth. We can further break that down into the true middle class of the NFL (those making over $1M a season but under $6M), minimum players, and those over $6M a year.
|Group||% of NFL Vets||% of Vet Salary||% of Vet Full Guar.||% of Vet Total Guar.|
You can take those numbers however you want about a big or shrinking middle class (without comparison to the past I cant really say for sure), but we need to understand when we complain about the CBA how limited the population is that we are talking about. Its basically 14% of the NFL who benefits from the big money deals and who people care about when they are suspended by the league. That is it. That is not a platform to get a buy in from the entire NFL population if there ever was a proposed strike on the table.
Roster by Position
|Position||% of Rosters||% of Annual Salary||% of Full Guar.||% of Total Guar|
It’s all about the passing game and finding ways to stop it these days. If you compare the percentage of roster spots to percent of salary our premier positions are the QB, offensive tackles, all of the defensive line, and pass rushing linebackers. These salaries are high because not only are extensions and free agent contracts high, but teams are mainly spending higher draft picks on these positions, which in turn have higher salaries. That’s different than corners and receivers, many of whom are special team’s guys, and are selected everywhere. Still the league obviously spends there too. The positions the league considers the most devalued are the traditional linebackers and running backs.
FWIW the average running back salary is not much higher than the average spent on the special teams positions. Granted there are far more running backs on rookie type contracts, but the big money talent is few and far in between there.
The Most Expensive Teams
These are our estimates for the salaries per team The numbers won’t be 100% correct and we are missing the recent extensions and signings, but they should give you a good idea of who has the highest and lowest paid rosters. These numbers will reduce as more players are released from IR who currently count in full.
|Team||Contracted Players||Annual Salary||Fully Guaranteed||Total Guarantees|
I don’t think too many people would be surprised to see these numbers with the exception of the Cowboys being so low. Dallas more or less was in a free agent freeze because of their salary cap and dropped a few big deals. Seattle on the top is a given as they spend big on the guys they want and unlike a team like the Packers are not afraid of going into free agency to spend. When you see the Dolphins where they are it’s a good reminder as to why they felt they had to sign Jay Cutler. They have a ton invested in this season.
The team with the highest amount of fully guaranteed salary on the roster is the Jaguars which is absurd. That’s been one of the worst managed teams from every perspective for a few years now. Maybe it will click this season for them. Also high on there are the Dolphins, Giants, and Panthers. Miami and NY are big free agent spenders. The Colts have the least amount in the NFL which says something about how bad their roster is considering Andrew Luck received $47 million at signing.
Contracts Signed in 2017
Every year the NFL sees a large number of contracts signed and Im tracking that in two categories- overall signings, which includes draft picks, and just veteran signings.
|Team||Players Signed||APY||Vets Signed||Vet APY|
Miami leads the way with a whopping $105 million worth of new contracts being signed this offseason, a number that doesn’t even include the recent extension for TJ McDonald. The Panthers, Vikings, and Browns are the other teams all over $90 million in new contracts this year. There are no expectations for the Browns but given those new deals they need to show some improvement to justify the rebuilding of the roster. A the bottom of the food chain was the frugal Bengals who signed just 18 new contracts and was the only team under $40 million.
When we look at just veteran spending the Panthers take the top spot with nearly $80 million spent on 19 new contracts. It was really a bizarre offseason for a team who handed out a number of new deals then fired the GM before signing a few other contracts. The Vikings rash of extensions added to their payroll while the Lions spent above average in the offseason but then did a massive contract for Matt Stafford that pushed them near the top.
Finally we look at the cash totals being paid out for players whose contracts were terminated this year. A handful of low level players re-signed but those players don’t make a material impact on these numbers. The first column represents the total cash spent on players no longer on the roster while the second is money spent in 2017 on players who failed to last the summer.
|Team||Dead Cash||Dead from New Players|
The Browns wrecked this category with nearly $17 million in payments being made to players not on the team. Mainly this was all attributed to their odd decision to take on Brock Osweilers contract to gain what effectively is a 3rd round draft pick. That number could have been higher had the Steelers not surprisingly gone so high on Joe Haden. The next closest team was the Jets which was based almost all on Darrelle Revis being released.
On the 2017 signings front Im not sure that it signals a good start for either John Lynch or Chris Ballard. The 49ers lost about $4 million this year on signings that included Jeremy Kerley, Matt Barkley, and Tim Hightower. Logan Paulsen was also in that group though he re-signed yesterday with the team.
The Colts were second with over $3 million lost. They lost out on Jeff Locke, Sean Spence, Brian Schwenke, Zach Banner, and Mo Alie-Cox among others.
Carolina was third with over two million all tied to a bad decision to guarantee a bunch of money to a punter they really no longer wanted. It would have made more sense to cut him if he would not have agreed to a paycut rather than guaranteeing an entire season for him.
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.