Breaking Down the 2017 NFL Rosters

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
Drafted 36.0% 17.5% 29.0% 23.4%
UFA 20.1% 32.7% 30.2% 28.5%
SFAR 11.8% 2.5% 0.0% 0.0%
UDFA 9.1% 1.9% 0.0% 0.0%
Extension 8.9% 30.8% 30.9% 38.2%
RFA/ERFA 6.4% 3.6% 1.4% 1.3%
SFAV 5.5% 4.1% 1.3% 1.2%
Other 1.5% 2.3% 1.4% 1.2%
Franchise/Trans 0.9% 4.5% 5.8% 6.3%

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.
Minimum Salary 14.2% 2.3% 0.2% 0.1%
Middle Class 51.1% 27.7% 18.1% 15.4%
Upper Class 34.7% 69.9% 81.7% 84.5%

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
QB 4.6% 11.2% 12.1% 13.3%
WR 11.7% 10.9% 11.2% 10.8%
DL 9.5% 10.7% 12.1% 12.5%
EDGE 9.2% 10.7% 11.4% 11.5%
CB 11.4% 10.5% 10.2% 10.2%
IOL 9.2% 9.2% 8.8% 8.7%
OT 7.0% 8.9% 9.8% 10.0%
LB 9.7% 7.4% 6.8% 6.3%
S 8.4% 7.2% 6.8% 6.7%
TE 6.0% 5.3% 4.7% 4.5%
RB 8.4% 5.2% 4.3% 3.8%
Special 5.0% 2.9% 1.8% 1.7%

 

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
Seahawks 64 $188,342,520 $209,219,187 $357,125,187
Panthers 66 $184,984,031 $280,115,319 $326,531,643
Dolphins 62 $184,789,983 $287,303,294 $339,918,294
Eagles 59 $180,442,837 $273,968,299 $354,862,674
Patriots 66 $178,479,597 $257,667,600 $291,954,857
Falcons 59 $176,838,421 $278,977,170 $361,470,112
Raiders 55 $175,062,187 $254,900,251 $328,950,251
Vikings 62 $174,274,905 $241,917,284 $323,251,284
Steelers 62 $172,099,302 $205,967,341 $233,717,341
Chiefs 64 $171,760,163 $257,575,944 $362,516,144
Jaguars 64 $170,429,421 $308,081,637 $329,360,636
Redskins 63 $167,997,027 $248,577,653 $296,780,653
Bears 62 $166,938,790 $234,820,715 $275,109,715
Giants 64 $164,766,618 $285,250,498 $346,103,850
Lions 65 $164,306,487 $279,702,126 $339,777,126
Broncos 58 $163,116,913 $251,801,515 $354,751,515
Saints 64 $161,837,642 $245,750,921 $291,970,921
Chargers 65 $161,779,712 $264,789,646 $322,289,646
Bengals 59 $161,730,127 $199,034,576 $201,922,036
Titans 61 $161,112,426 $222,872,608 $263,422,607
Packers 60 $159,255,034 $217,589,076 $217,589,076
Ravens 67 $158,412,022 $258,114,161 $294,360,102
Cardinals 56 $158,273,220 $188,674,027 $301,474,027
Rams 64 $156,596,652 $233,765,427 $298,050,188
Buccaneers 62 $149,808,196 $206,790,099 $286,351,082
Bills 57 $149,687,193 $229,628,171 $282,253,171
Texans 63 $149,448,589 $253,925,422 $297,420,422
Cowboys 59 $145,798,814 $236,665,548 $295,297,535
Colts 64 $143,844,887 $161,448,013 $260,737,756
Browns 61 $135,116,719 $218,113,113 $280,600,523
Jets 66 $129,721,112 $190,939,891 $208,359,891
49ers 65 $127,927,012 $202,731,562 $220,448,170

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
Dolphins 38 $105,262,600 14 $68,462,778
Panthers 39 $102,819,564 19 $79,823,333
Vikings 29 $95,284,715 12 $75,942,500
Browns 29 $90,697,286 9 $64,363,333
Lions 37 $88,198,401 14 $70,582,500
Redskins 32 $85,133,692 14 $65,753,600
Titans 32 $84,524,044 13 $57,775,000
Jaguars 34 $83,333,377 12 $59,898,100
Bears 32 $83,116,580 19 $67,233,333
Steelers 34 $74,165,337 11 $51,900,000
Patriots 32 $73,837,402 12 $53,850,000
Bills 38 $71,399,005 18 $38,943,334
49ers 35 $70,112,754 14 $47,025,000
Raiders 21 $67,023,601 7 $49,185,000
Ravens 33 $66,371,472 11 $45,491,666
Chargers 31 $63,840,595 8 $40,642,500
Falcons 26 $61,964,610 12 $48,775,000
Rams 25 $61,641,550 10 $48,547,396
Colts 35 $60,766,397 15 $45,271,667
Seahawks 34 $60,253,521 14 $45,910,000
Jets 30 $60,118,428 11 $37,645,000
Cardinals 27 $58,828,679 12 $41,015,000
Giants 33 $58,611,435 13 $41,528,333
Eagles 27 $58,503,861 10 $30,935,000
Chiefs 25 $58,359,526 5 $30,977,900
Saints 31 $55,761,232 15 $38,901,667
Buccaneers 29 $54,941,852 13 $39,696,667
Cowboys 28 $47,236,134 13 $35,550,833
Broncos 27 $44,683,836 8 $25,775,000
Texans 23 $44,422,211 6 $27,725,000
Packers 26 $42,404,501 8 $29,975,000
Bengals 18 $37,807,507 6 $24,432,500

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.

Lost Money

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
Browns $16,893,000 $93,000
Jets $6,573,000 $573,000
49ers $5,898,765 $4,148,765
Eagles $5,411,948 $361,948
Panthers $5,057,544 $2,307,544
Colts $4,422,474 $3,350,239
Vikings $3,761,932 $261,932
Chargers $3,705,250 $187,500
Cowboys $3,608,028 $608,028
Chiefs $2,891,224 $282,224
Bills $2,682,491 $184,000
Dolphins $2,564,059 $517,000
Cardinals $1,942,388 $1,942,388
Bears $1,819,000 $1,391,000
Rams $1,615,837 $365,837
Buccaneers $1,492,288 $1,492,288
Saints $1,437,647 $465,588
Bengals $1,183,260 $1,138,260
Steelers $1,153,328 $578,828
Jaguars $1,145,971 $1,145,971
Ravens $1,029,000 $529,000
Seahawks $865,880 $265,880
Packers $855,532 $855,532
Patriots $821,028 $337,028
Titans $591,074 $591,074
Giants $548,548 $508,548
Raiders $452,764 $277,764
Lions $297,640 $247,640
Redskins $289,732 $189,732
Texans $242,294 $242,294
Falcons $201,618 $201,618
Broncos $78,500 $78,500

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.