As I explained before in this article, and used 2014 as an introductory example, I’m interested in exploring the concept of texture to gain a better understanding how what goes into building an NFL roster. I have now created a page that will programmatically display the texture of each team as it stands in real time. In the future, I hope to add tabs for team textures of previous years. Since the 2015 regular season is hours away from beginning, I used today as a deadline to get this page live so that we could get a glimpse of what teams look like right now before the attrition of the season comes upon us.
Here is a direct link to the texture page, and you may also find the same link in the Featured Content box on the sidebar. Beyond the fold, you can find interesting texture facts to get you started, one for each team, grouped by division.
- As of this writing, the Bills had one of the more average textures in the league, though their spending on Middle veterans is currently top 5 in the league. This may change, however, with the very recent news that Marcell Dareus has agreed to a lucrative contract extension.
- The Dolphins have set themselves up to have no Elite cap charges for 2015, infamously deferring high numbers for Ndamukong Suh until 2016 and Ryan Tannehill until 2017. Such deferment was necessary to absorb dead money arising from the mistakes of the Jeff Ireland era–second highest in the league this year.
- The Patriots continue to keep the cap charges on top-tier players low, ranking near the bottom in most of the Elite, High & Middle categories. It helps them as this year they incur a bit more dead money, 8th highest in the league largely due to the declining of the Darrelle Revis option and the trade of Logan Mankins.
- The Jets made it clear they wanted to upgrade the veteran talent on the roster, and it shows with their league-leading spending on Elite & High veterans at over $65 million in cap dollars, contrasted with being tied for the fewest Rookie contracts on the roster.
- The Ravens remain well balanced in their texture, paying key veterans well while still paving for the future. The only problem is still having to deal with the dead money cost of releasing Ray Rice, and that figure was upped further with the trade of Haloti Ngata.
- The Bengals are typically known for not overpaying, and it shows again this year with no Elite cap numbers and a top five figure in cap space. That has the potential to change next year with Andy Dalton’s contract rising in value, as well as a potential AJ Green extension looming.
- The Browns haven’t found many superstars but they have positioned themselves well to prepare with being 3rd in cap space and 3rd to last in dead money. In the meantime they are able to focus cap dollars on the High tier, employing the 2nd highest of such in the league.
- Recent veteran retirements such as Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor have left the Steelers with little to speak for in the Elite/High/Middle classes, with bottom 5 rankings in all related categories. This is a team that’s getting younger–they are tied for the league lead with number of Rookie contracts at 41–though a current league-leading 15 players on IR offsets that considerably.
- The Texans have spent well on veterans, having top 10 rankings in the upper tiers, particularly in the High veteran class. But they also have plenty of youth to work with, also holding top 10 rankings in Rookie contract categories.
- The freeriding off Andrew Luck’s rookie contract continues for the Colts–they once again have no Elite cap charges even with the extension of TY Hilton. This allows them to employ 11 veterans on High & Middle values, a top 10 number in the league.
- No team holds more cap space than the Jaguars with over $33 million, and with a roster still bereft of many players worthy of getting that money, it is understandable. Through recent free agency splurges, however, they still hold top 3 rankings in the number of High & Middle veterans signed.
- No team has spent less in cap dollars on the Elite/High/Middle tiers than the Titans, taking up less than 35% of their total cap. This is understandable considering that this was a team that likely hit rock bottom in the rebuilding process last season.
- The Broncos lead the league in cap dollars spent on Elite and High veterans, with just 8 players taking up over 55% of their cap. They will have some decisions to make next year with only Von Miller’s contract expiring from those eight, and Chris Harris, Jr. likely entering the High tier in 2016.
- The failure of the Dwayne Bowe experiment has cramped the Chiefs’ 2015 cap, incurring a top 5 dead money figure. This helped to contribute to Justin Houston’s recent extension to be backloaded that will result in him regularly showing up in the Elite tier from 2016 onward.
- The Chargers are a veteran-heavy team, taking up over 55% of their cap in the Elite/High/Middle tiers. Their Rookie contract numbers are also on the low side, despite already sending 8 players to IR.
- Reggie McKenzie is desperately trying to make the Raiders competitive via the draft, and it shows with their top 5 rankings in Rookie contracts, both in cap dollars and in numbers on the roster.
- These aren’t the Cowboys you once knew: they have bottom 5 rankings in the Elite/High/Middle aggregate categories despite being 8th in Elite spending on Tony Romo and Brandon Carr. That’s offset by having top 10 rankings in Rookie contracts across the board, though that number may be slightly inflated due to 10 players already on IR.
- The Giants are currently slated to be 2nd in spending of cap dollars on Elite contracts–but that is highly tentative due to a possible extension for Eli Manning soon, as well as the uncertain status of Jason Pierre-Paul.
- Chip Kelly has crafted the Eagles to his liking by leaning heavy on Middle veterans, incurring top 5 rankings both in cap spending (almost a quarter of the cap) and on the number on the roster at 8.
- Despite having no Elite cap numbers in 2015, the Redskins still display their penchant for spending well on veterans, employing the highest number of High and Middle tier players at 14.
- The Bears are spending much on the Elite and High tiers, incurring top 5 cap numbers both individually and in the aggregate. They are also still a veteran-heavy team, employing a bottom 10 number of Rookies at 32.
- Despite finally discarding the high Ndamukong Suh cap number, the Lions still lead the league in Elite cap spending with Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson eating up over a quarter of the cap alone. The tradeoff is that the Lions have only one High veteran (Haloti Ngata), and are in the bottom 5 in number of Rookies employed at 31.
- The Packers continue to treat their best veterans well (2nd highest spending in the Elite/High/Middle tier), yet still keep an eye on the future via the draft. The end result is that the Packers have the second-lowest spending on Low veteran contracts, taking up only 8% of the cap.
- The Vikings continue to spend well on Rookie contracts, 2nd in the league in that regard. But there is still plenty of room for well-paid veterans, holding a top 10 rank in the number of Elite/High/Middle veterans at 11.
- The Falcons have spent heavy on Middle and Low veteran contracts, ranking top 10 in the former tier and 3rd in the latter tier. The tradeoffs are only two players (Matt Ryan and Julio Jones) in the Elite and High tiers, and a bottom 10 ranking in Rookie contracts, both on cap dollars spent and number employed.
- The Panthers are very top heavy, with just six Elite and High veterans eating up over 45% of the cap alone. The tradeoff is that the Panthers are the only team with no Middle veteran cap numbers in 2015.
- No team holds more dead money in 2015 than the Saints, eating up over 20% of their cap. Drew Brees also eats up another 18.4% as the lone Elite cap figure. The end result has the Saints with a high reliance on Low veteran contracts (top 5-6 in the league) and very little spending not only on High & Middle veterans, but also on Rookie contracts, the latter of which they are last in absolute spending and second to last as a percentage of the cap.
- The Bucs’ recent misadventures in free agency have stuck them with the 3rd highest dead money in the league. Combine that with being the worst team in the NFL last year, and it’s not surprising that they are now focused on getting young, employing the league highest number of Rookie contracts at 41, of which are also a top 10 ranking in cap spending.
- The Cardinals are another top heavy team, consuming over 40% of their cap on just six Elite and High veterans. As a result, they also have bottom 10 rankings in the number of Middle veterans, both in cap spending and number employed.
- No team spends more on Rookie contracts than the Rams, taking up almost one third of their cap. They also have the highest percentage of Rookie contracts on their roster at over 70%. Of course, that can be directly attributed to the Robert Griffin III trade.
- The recent spate of cuts and retirements have given the 49ers the 6th highest dead money figure in the league. However, they haven’t made the 49ers’ texture very disproportionate otherwise, as they retain rather average rankings in most tiers.
- Despite all their recent extensions, the Seahawks still get one more year without any players incurring an Elite cap charge. This means they are far and away the leader in High veterans, both in cap spending (over 45% at around $66 million) and in number at 8. This also means that they are still top 5 in the aggregate rankings despite having no Elite veterans on the books for 2015.