Earlier this offseason, our Luke Adams examined the largest 2014 cap hits by position on both offense and defense, scrutinizing the most expensive individual cap charges for next year. The list that follows, while along the same lines, tabulates the largest cap hits by position group. Some overlap in the lists is unavoidable — if a single player has an exorbitant cap charge, it will inevitably raise the team’s cap hit for his position as a whole. After taking a look at positional group spending on offense a few weeks ago, we’ll examine defensive cap figures here.
Looking at both the offensive and defensive lists, 14 of 32 NFL teams appear on neither ranking — each of those franchises can somewhat be placed into one of three buckets. The Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals, Falcons, Patriots, and Ravens are contending teams whose cap management techniques have been lauded. The Bills, Buccaneers, Jets, Raiders, and Texans are rebuilding squads who aren’t looking to break the bank on one player.
The two clubs that remain, the Colts and Saints, are harder to classify. Each is successful team, to be sure. However, many of Indianapolis’ free agent additions have been criticized, while New Orleans’ cap management approach has been widely denounced. What these lists show, though, is that neither club has overly-invested at any one position. Yes, the Colts have benefited from Andrew Luck‘s rookie contract, and the Saints’ methods might prove unworkable. But perhaps each team is more interested in spreading the wealth and maintaining depth than it seems.
- Panthers, $37.716MM
- Lions, $37.403MM
- Rams, $35.462MM
Even with starting tackle Star Lotulelei playing on a rookie contract, Carolina still tops this list thanks to Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy‘s combined 2014 cap hit of nearly $30MM. The Panthers have spent their money wisely, though, as the team ranked second in adjusted sack rate and ninth against the run, per Football Outsiders. Ndamukong Suh‘s league-leading cap figure of $22.413MM pushes Detroit to second place. The Rams could top this list sooner than later, as Richard Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald are all under rookie deals for the time being.
- Packers, $29.346MM
- Steelers, $28.59MM
- Chiefs, $24.785MM
Scheme differentiation plays a part in the linebacker rankings — simply due to the value placed on pass-rushing LBs, teams that employ 3-4 fronts will shoot to the top of this list. In fact, of the 10 teams that spend the most on linebackers, eight use a 3-4 look as their primary defense. Packers Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, and Julius Peppers all have 2014 cap hit north of $3.5MM. The Steelers are something of an outlier, as their top defensive cap charge is that of Lawrence Timmons, an inside linebacker — his $11.816M cap number is No. 1 among all LBs. Outside rusher Jason Worilds is second among Pittsburgh defenders, as he is playing under the $9.754MM franchise-tag figure. The Chiefs, another 3-4 team, are paying big money to Tamba Hali (second-highest cap number among LBs), and could rise on this list if they extend Justin Houston, who currently counts just under $1.6MM against the cap.
- Cowboys, $22.048MM
- Packers, $19.704MM
- Browns, $18.473MM
At corner, we come to the first real oddity among positional spending: Despite counting $2MM+ more against the cap than any corner unit in 2014, the Cowboys CBs are anything but impressive — they finished 27th in DVOA against the pass last season, per FO. Brandon Carr and his $12.217 cap figure (first among corners) was highly ineffective in 2013, grading as just the 58th-best CB in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Green Bay has a reputation for penny-pinching, but that really only applies to free agency — as their rank here and on the LB list shows, they’re willing to invest in their own players. Joe Haden‘s cap charge of $12.129MM is second only to Joe Thomas among Browns; first-rounder Justin Gilbert will count just $2.333MM against Cleveland’s 2014 cap.
- Seahawks, $16.089MM
- Chiefs, $14.385MM
- Titans, $14.008MM
The Seahawks are led by perhaps the best safety in the league, Earl Thomas, who will count $7.373MM against the cap next year. His backfield mate, Kam Chancellor, has a $5.835MM cap number. Tampa Bay (Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron) is the only other team that has two safeties within its top-10 2014 cap hits. Eric Berry, a benefactor of the old CBA, has the Chiefs’ highest cap charge, barely edging out Hali. The Titans have something of a three-headed monster at S, with Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, and George Wilson each seeing snaps in the backfield. Tennessee seems to have invested well, as each member of the triumvirate ranked within the top 25% of safeties last season, per PFF. Griffin has the highest 2014 cap figure at $8MM.
Contract information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.