NFL Injury Update

Injuries are always a killer in the NFL. Some are predictable but most you just don’t see coming and they can derail a season. With four weeks in the book we look at the teams with the most and least money sitting on reserve lists thus far in 2018.

Devastated by Injury

The 49ers had high hopes for 2018 but those hopes were quickly derailed when prize signings Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon went down. McKinnon never saw the field while Garoppolo only made it through three games.  With those two leading the way the 49ers lead the NFL with $40.9 million in contracts sitting on the sidelines. Those injuries represent 23.6% of the 49ers roster value and 31% of their actual spending on the roster in 2018. No other team in the league is above 18% and 16% respectively in those categories. Both of those signings were high risk signings in my estimation but odds are we won’t get to identify if they were good or bad ones simply because they never suited up this year for any meaningful snaps. The 49ers are 1-3 on the season and need a win this week against the hapless Cardinals to keep postseason dreams alive.

Seattle features some of the older stars in the NFL and they have been struck by the injury bug. The Seahawks have two of the top five most expensive players on a reserve list in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Thomas’ injury was an unfortunate one that you could never plan for. Chancellor, on the other hand, was already headed down the injury path when Seattle inexplicably re-signed him and the negatives from that signing have probably made Seattle far more cautious than in the past which led to a bitter departure from cornerback Richard Sherman and nasty relationship with soon to be free agent Thomas. The team also lost free agent signing Ed Dickson to the NFI list and rookie Will Dissly to IR. All told the Seahawks have $31.5 million sitting on reserve lists. They are a lackluster 2-2 so far.

The defending champion Eagles have nearly $26 million in contracts sitting on the sidelines. Timmy Jernigan landed on NFI with a herniated disc, just one year after signing a very lucrative $12 million a year contract. The situation was serious enough that they reworked his contract to remove future guarantees. Safety Rodney McLeod and receiver Mike Wallace are both on injured reserve and safety Chris Maragos began the season on the PUP list. The amount of money on the sidelines is about 13% of the Eagles salary structure. They are sitting at 2-2 and trying to round into form.

The Panthers are the final team to have over $20 million on reserve with $21.3 million in contracts failing to play on Sunday. That is led by tackle Matt Kalil who signed an $11.1 million contract last year. Kalil missed 14 games in 2016 but the Panthers looked at that as an aberration which has them locked into Kalil for at least another season. The team also lost CB Ross Cockrell and S Da’Norris Searcy to injury, both of whom signed new contracts this season. Carolina has also dealt with a suspension for linebacker Thomas Davis and injury to tight end Greg Olsen, neither of which are reflected in these figures. They are 2-1.

The Titans lost Delanie Walker and Jonathan Cyprien early but still managed an excellent 3-1 start. They have $19.8 million sitting on the sidelines not to mention having to start Blaine Gabbert a few times. Perhaps the Titans are benefitting from the new coach syndrome the way many teams seem to in the first year but thus far are dealing with the injury bug as well as any team in the league.

The Cowboys reserve numbers skyrocketed today when the put $13.6M in contracts on NFI and IR. Star center Travis Frederick as placed on NFI to make room for the formerly suspended David Irving while Terence Williams was put on IR thinning an already thin wide receiver group. With a relatively low cost roster the Dallas reserve list makes up 12.3% of their roster value, 4th in the NFL. The Cowboys are 2-2 and have had one of the worst offenses in the NFL this year.

The Lucky Five

There isn’t much good to say about the Bills this year but if you want to find something positive in the year its that they only have 1 player on IR- punter Cory Carter. Of course if there was a year to have injuries it would have been this one as the 1-3 Bills look like a lock for a top 5 draft pick in 2019.  They will certainly hope that they don’t see the natural regression one would expect next year where they move into the devastated category.

Detroit has just $1.7 million on IR and PUP at the moment though franchise player Ziggy Ansah will now miss at least 4 games in a row. Ansah’s health concerns are part of the reason he did not land a lucrative extension and if his season does ever end the Lions will skyrocket up this list. Detroit is just 1-3 and hoping to save their season this weekend.

The Bears made some noise this offseason and the early returns are terrific with a 3-1 start and what looks like one of the better defenses in the NFL. Chicago has also benefitted by being pretty healthy with just $4.1M on the sidelines. $790,000 of that number is attributed to a player the team knew would likely not play this year and was really just the team doing a solid for a player who suffered a bad injury in the year before, so it’s a pretty small number for the Bears.

The hapless Cardinals may be terrible but injury isn’t an excuse with just $4.6 million on the sidelines. The most notable loss was center AQ Shipley. Arizona has other wasted dollars on the roster, particularly at the QB position, that are not captured here.  With a rookie QB now taking over the Cardinals will hope that the luck with health extends all season.

The Browns have a win under their belt and have certainly looked improved and have also benefitted from having just 3.3% of their salary sitting on IR. The biggest loss was cornerback Terrance Mitchell at $3.3M a year and certainly a position of need for the team but it is doubtful that his presence would have had that kind of impact.

The Chargers are a unique case with just $6 million on IR but two of those players were players the team was hoping to get good seasons from. Tight end Hunter Henry looked like  he would be a very productive player but suffered an ACL injury that forced the Chargers to go back  to veteran Antonio Gates. Corner Jason Verett has a high ceiling but is always hurt. He will miss the whole year which means he will have missed 55 of a possible 80 games in his career. The Chargers thought enough of him to pick up an $8.5m option despite all the injuries.

Here is the complete list as of week 5.

TeamReserve PlayersTotal Reserve APYTotal Reserve CapTotal Reserve CashReserve Contract Value
49ers6$40,890,792$47,757,399$59,931,44123.6%
Seahawks11$31,476,671$26,514,115$23,939,36818.7%
Eagles8$25,958,917$21,746,167$15,166,00013.2%
Panthers9$21,259,369$16,565,280$23,026,00011.2%
Titans8$19,860,667$20,797,166$21,591,62510.9%
Cowboys10$19,122,693$15,393,921$18,184,11412.3%
Raiders11$18,227,863$15,373,531$13,683,44310.2%
Dolphins6$17,110,000$18,335,000$17,860,00010.0%
Rams9$15,381,318$15,074,024$15,362,2427.7%
Texans8$14,905,743$13,006,539$12,396,0849.3%
Falcons4$14,820,822$13,332,169$14,203,3907.9%
Patriots11$13,221,596$9,428,347$17,529,2837.2%
Buccaneers9$13,093,022$12,335,990$9,632,8787.0%
Jaguars6$12,641,199$7,804,945$12,341,0065.6%
Redskins11$11,358,991$9,806,077$10,074,0606.4%
Saints6$8,831,667$5,934,002$9,349,0005.3%
Giants9$8,674,918$7,121,758$7,289,7614.8%
Bengals6$8,653,324$6,971,099$7,197,5894.9%
Packers6$8,427,498$9,401,939$9,484,4414.4%
Steelers11$8,061,923$13,314,004$13,473,3824.2%
Vikings9$7,634,935$6,246,347$6,492,8203.6%
Chiefs7$7,441,667$7,556,313$6,069,6474.7%
Broncos9$7,351,764$5,572,742$6,038,8594.1%
Jets4$6,949,129$6,989,585$6,728,7064.4%
Ravens11$6,622,084$5,574,390$6,106,3524.3%
Colts9$6,181,026$4,614,781$5,736,3604.4%
Chargers6$6,072,328$12,080,084$11,540,0283.5%
Browns5$5,966,002$4,960,414$6,001,0003.3%
Cardinals6$4,594,000$3,683,500$3,754,0002.8%
Bears5$4,113,128$3,167,798$2,624,1602.0%
Lions3$1,701,051$1,254,580$1,317,7331.0%
Bills1$526,000$364,000$365,0000.4%

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