Spending on the NFL Passing Game

With this being kind of a slow time of year in the NFL I thought it would be fun to look at the teams that are spending the most in the NFL on their passing games. To evaluate the teams makeup we will look at their top three wide receiver (or tight end) and the top quarterback average salaries to get an idea of what teams are investing in their passing attack. We’ll also compare the numbers with last year’s adjusted yards just as a guide for how efficient or inefficient their spending will be if they perform the same as last year.

The Most Bang For the Buck

Indianapolis Colts

There is no team that can match the Colts in terms of bang for the buck with Andrew Luck still on his rookie contract and a receiving corps of Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, and Coby Fleener. The combined spending ranks 29th in the NFL and last year the offense finished 2nd in the NFL in adjusted yards. Johnson replaces Reggie Wayne, whose numbers were highly correlated with Lucks play, so there is a chance that they are even better this year. If they put up the same numbers the 27 rank difference is the best in the NFL by 12 spots.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are going to test the idea that it is the QB and not the receivers that make the passing game. Gone is the high priced Jimmy Graham and the team slashed the salary of Marques Colston. Their spending on receivers is now last in the NFL, which essentially compensates for Drew Brees massive contact and cap number. If Brees pulls off the 5th best yardage totals in the NFL they will be getting incredible value out of this group.

Tennessee Titans

I almost feel silly putting this team here, but this is an example of a team not doing something stupid and overspending when there is almost no chance of a positive return. That’s not a defense of the way the Titans run their team, but at least they aren’t throwing money away the way some other teams do. If Marcus Mariota works out then this has to change next season, but for now you don’t get much but you cant expect much either given the talent. So I guess somehow that’s efficient.

New England Patriots

No big surprise as the low cost Brady and receivers more than offset the impact of having a top paid tight end. The team gets great results out of Edelman and Lafell while Gronkowski is clearly the best tight end in some time in the NFL. About the only player that doesn’t justify the cost is Danny Amendola, who did have a good playoffs, so if you take a fantasy flyer on someone take it on a random Patriot. The team ranks middle of the league in spending and will likely finish top 10 in passing, especially if Brady’s suspension is reduced.

Philadelphia Eagles

It is kind of hard to get a full handle on the Eagles who will replace their top receiver from last year and possibly their quarterback.  The move away from Jeremy Maclin this offseason and DeSean Jackson last year shows a belief in the system and the ability to be conservative in their spending. If they can find a take for Sam Bradford and leave Mark Sanchez as their starter this will end up as one of the top value constructions in the NFL.

Throwing Away Money

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are counting on newly acquired receiver Torrey Smith to make a major difference in the pass attack and a bounce back year from Vernon Davis to salvage a disastrous passing game. Last year the team ranked 24th in the NFL in adjusted passing yards and this year will have the 5th highest salaries for the passing game. They are essentially the anti-Colts with high priced talent and limited returns. Even if they improved their passing ranking by 10 spots they would still be tied for worst disparity in the NFL, so they need massive improvements this year.

Minnesota Vikings

The best thing Minnesota has going for them is that Teddy Bridgewater played well last year and will be the QB for all of 2015. The negative is they replaced Greg Jennings with the even more expensive Mike Wallace. Bringing Wallace in is a risky move and when you combine that with the presence of the often injured and expensive Kyle Rudolph they need Bridgewater to really raise the passing game to justify the cost in those two players.

Carolina Panthers

$20.76 million for Cam Newton is a leap of faith that he can find a way to pull the 18th ranked passing attack into the top 10. Considering the teams offseason moves were increasing the salary of Greg Olsen and signing Ted Ginn and Ed Dickson this looks like a sure fire bet to be in the bottom of the NFL in 2015 for effective spending. The team will likely need to add a major talent in 2016 to justify the cost in Newton.

New York Jets

The Jets actually rank 8th in the NFL in top 3 receiver spending so they are going with the theory that the receiver can make the QB. Last year that clearly did not work as they ranked worst in the NFL in passing. Gone is Percy Harvin and in comes Brandon Marshall. Marshall is the far more polished player, though he is coming off his worst season since he was a rookie. They need Marshall to take the pressure off Eric Decker to get the most out of this group, but it will all be for nothing if the Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick tandem resembles the Smith/Michael Vick tandem of a year ago.

Detroit Lions

1st in spending, but 10th in effectiveness is not exactly a good place to be in the NFL. The Lions have huge money invested in Calvin Johnson and significant money invested in Golden Tate. What tips them over the edge is a complete waste of money in Brandon Pettigrew who they decided to pay $4 million  year for what reason nobody can explain. If they get more out of Eric Ebron this can improve, but the reality is the team is just overinvested in the passing game and Matt Stafford has a big arm but has yet to find a way to use it effectively in the NFL.

Random Thoughts

Kansas City Chiefs

In terms of salary, the addition of Jeremy Maclin was essentially a wash with Dwayne Bowe, so the question becomes how much can Maclin improve the offense. It is an odd pairing between he and Alex Smith since Maclin’s biggest strength is getting down the field and Smith’s biggest strength is having Jamaal Charles catch passes one yard down the field. They need a big turnaround to keep from being a bottom 1/3 team in efficiency.

Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers

Both teams spend a great deal and essentially get the proper return. Denver ranks 5th in spending and was 4th in performance last year. Wes Welker was replaced by the slightly cheaper Owen Daniels so no real change is expected if Peyton plays ok….Green Bay increased payroll but ranked 3rd in passing last year and could have been higher if they wanted to. They basically get the perfect return for their spending.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas ranked 9th in passing last year but will rank 3rd in spending if Dez Bryant signs his franchise tender. There is essentially no change in the offense and they will likely perform the same this season. The disparity between the two numbers is probably one of the reasons the Cowboys are hedging on  long term contract with Bryant, but they do need to ask themselves how much worse off would they be without it. The answer to that question may not be good for the Cowboys.

Chicago Bears

The Bears rank 10th in spending and that is with Marshall off the team. The team ranked just 17th in the NFL in passing effectiveness last year which is why they needed to make changes with Marshall being the most logical guy to move. He is replaced by Eddie Royal and if Royal flops the Bears have a chance to be really bad in their allocation on the passing game.

Here is the full list of the teams

TeamQBTop 3 Rec/TE. APYTotalAdj 2014 Yards2015 Salary RankYardage RankDifference