Non-QB NFL Spending

Today I wanted to take a look at how much talent teams are attempting to surround their QB’s with in 2021. To do that I looked at how much is being spent per year on the top 20 non quarterbacks on each roster and compared that with the total expenditure on the QB room this year. Here is a quick look at how the league breaks down.

The way I would read this is that teams in the top right quadrant have expensive QBs and are investing a lot in the rest of their roster despite what is being spent on the QB. Those in the bottom right are relying heavily on rookie talent and/or are relying on the QB to push them over the top. The top left are the teams with lower cost QB situations and trying to surround their teams with as much talent as possible. Those in the bottom left have cheap QB rooms but are being more cautious with their spending on the rest of the roster.

A few things stood out to me here. Of the teams with expensive QB rooms only three rank top 10 in non QB spending. The Buccaneers did everything humanly possible to come back with an intact roster and have the most expensive upper tier roster in the NFL with $170.8M per year allocated to their top 20 non QB contracts. The next six teams- the Saints, Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Patriots and Bears- all have relatively lower cost QB’s.

Of the teams that do spend above average on non-QB’s they generally the teams spending between the 10th and 16th most in the league.  That’s the basic impact of having an expensive QB either on the front end of his contract and/or doing a very good job of managing the cap charges associated with that contract.

Of the eight bottom spending teams, seven of them have QB’s that rank in the top 16 in the NFL and five of those seven rank top 10. These teams are all pretty interesting. The Falcons and Steelers position here clearly is because of salary cap disasters, though the Steelers could move up higher when/if they extend TJ Watt. The Lions and 49ers are two teams who probably have an eye more on the future than this season and are playing out the string a bit, especially the 49ers, with an expensive QB.

Seattle is an interesting team. They don’t invest a lot around Wilson but they are also in a position where they should be saving for or waiting to spend more on an extension for Jamal Adams and perhaps some future line help. The Vikings are hard to get a handle on. They fall into a weird no mans land of being heavily invested in a QB but may not have a long investment in that main QB.

The Raiders are probably just mismanaged and not taking an advantage of the fact that Carr at this point in his career is cheap and is the perfect kind of contract to surround with a ton of talent to try to take advantage of that. The Colts have some added extensions on the horizon but they also fall into that cheaper QB category from a cap perspective. Id love to have seen them take an added risk or two in free agency.

Of the cheaper QB rooms the Ravens stand out. Now if we look just at the next two years their QB room is not that cheap since Lamar Jackson has a big cap number in 2022 and is in line for a massive extension on top of that. This is probably the right call for the long term but I think its fair to wonder why they are not approaching things like Buffalo. When looking at the Bengals, Dolphins, and Chargers I think you would like to see them up a bit more as well. The young QB window is basically 3 years max with the first year coming in the second year of their career. Why not bet strong on a young player now rather than waiting until you see it for real in year 2?  Teams should be proactive in taking advantage of these windows not reactive and missing out. I’d hate to be the team that has a QB take off in year 2, lose in the WC round, and debate about how different it would be if we added two more players. Meanwhile in the back of your mind the next year is saving up for an extension and you miss the window entirely.

The other standout is Carolina. This is a team still in the middle of a major rebuild and probably salary cap constrained with an eye on some extensions. However, having gone out and traded for Sam Darnold who was a highly drafted but thus far NFL flawed QB it would seem to be an injustice to not fill more veteran talent around him. I’m not sure if this is much different than what he was in in NY except with a less intense media spotlight and perhaps a more forgiving fanbase. This is a clear team that needs their rookies and second year players to make a major leap.

I think if you are a fan of the Browns, Bills, Cardinals, Patriots, and Giants you are probably pretty happy with how their front offices are trying to win now. You can certainly argue with some of the moves and whether the contract value really matches the production (I’m really looking at New England and New York on that one) but at least they are giving it a shot when they have a good chance. If the Bears can drop off some of their veteran salary and start Justin Fields they probably fit in that same category.

Here is the breakdown of each team’s spending in 2021.

TeamTop 20 Non QB ValueQB Value
Football Team$137,894,999$13,920,000