Spending on Offense and Defense in the NFL

Last week we looked at the big spenders in the NFL and this week we will break things down into spending by unit. To calculate spending we looked at the annual values of player contracts in the NFL which are more indicative of how a team views the quality of their roster rather than the more easily manipulated salary cap figures.

Big Spending on Offense And Defense

Three teams in 2020 have really decided to go all out with the construction of their teams. The Eagles and the Texans both have incredibly high priced players on offense and are bit above average on defense. The 49ers have gone a bit in the other direction with higher priced defensive talent while trending slightly above the average for offense. The Eagles and Texans are both off to terrible starts and the 49ers are devastated by injuries. I think for these teams it would be a disaster to miss the playoffs. The Chiefs are just above average defensively while fielding one of the most expensive offensive units in the NFL. The Packers, Vikings, and Bills just barely jump over the offensive line to wind up here.

Big Spending on Offense, Lower Spending on Defense

About a third of the NFL has taken this approach to building their teams. Dallas is so close to the average defense line that they could easily be considered right there with the Chiefs. Expectations should also be that high for Dallas. The Saints, Raiders, and Colts are all high priced offensive units, with the Colts showing a heavy reliance on offense, while there is a little more balance among the Bucs, Browns, Titans, Rams and Falcons. The Seahawks just creep into here as well and I could see fans getting on them for not using more resources this year if they fall short. I think for the teams over $120M on offense in this quadrant anything but playoffs this year would be looked at as a failure.

Big Spending on Defense, Lower Spending on Offense

Not many take this approach and there are basically four outlier teams in this spending range. The Bears are the most one sided team in the NFL this year with so much put into their defense with a prayer that one of their QBs can make a difference. They are 2-0 thus far. Denver and Miami both have little invested on offense and have used the draft to build there while being more veteran laden on defense. Denver is riddled with injuries and Miami is 1-2. The Ravens are slightly above average on defense with just nothing on offense. They are completely relying on draft picks on offense as they navigate a cap crunch this year. Of course having the NFL MVP at QB helps them with this strategy this year. All the other teams here trend very close to average on offensive spending.

Low Spending on Offense and Defense

The Panthers are close enough to average spenders on offense that I don’t think you would consider the teams as having “punted” on the year. The Jets, who lost a big ticket player to opt outs, spend nothing on their defense and its shown the last two weeks as they have been eviscerated by the Bills and 49ers. They are the worst team in the NFL through two weeks. The Giants and Football team both get somewhat close to the defensive average line while having cheap offenses. The Patriots were cheap by design this year but got even cheaper when their defense was destroyed by opt outs. The Jaguars ripped their team apart in the offseason. None of these teams should have expected the playoffs and would be thrilled with making it. Of these teams only the Patriots so far look good and they were able to take advantage of a QB contract to stand out.

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