Every one of the NFL’s 32 teams has control over how it spends its money and uses its cap space, but clubs have far less control over ensuring that their players avoid injuries. Given how many fluke collisions and non-contact injuries we see end seasons every year, a team needs a certain amount of luck to remain relatively healthy over the course of a 16-game season.
Through this season’s first nine weeks, every NFL team has had multiple players land on season-ending injured reserve, and in many cases, those clubs now have a decent chunk of their overall cap commitments sitting on IR. As one of our PFR Glossary entries outlines, “dead money” is a term applied to cap hits for players who are no longer on a team’s roster, but the cap numbers for players on injured reserve can be viewed as another form of dead money. These players’ seasons are over, and they aren’t counting toward their respective teams’ 53-man rosters, but their salaries still count against the cap.
Listed below are the top 10 highest-paid players by 2014 cap hit who have landed on season-ending injured reserve this season. Players who were given the designation to return aren’t included here.
- Sam Bradford (QB), Rams: $17.61MM
- Brian Orakpo (LB), Washington: $11.455MM
- Alex Mack (C), Browns: $10MM
- Paul Posluszny (LB), Jaguars: $9.5MM
- Jake Long (T), Rams: $9.25MM
- Darnell Dockett (DT), Cardinals: $8.75MM
- Dannell Ellerbe (LB), Dolphins: $7.425MM
- Victor Cruz (WR), Giants: $7.424MM
- Jerod Mayo (LB), Patriots: $7.288MM
- Tyvon Branch (S), Raiders: $7.157MM
As this list shows, some teams have had worse luck than others, and some of those clubs have been able to overcome that bad luck better than others. The Rams have two players in the top five of this list, and that doesn’t even take into account defensive end Chris Long, who is on IR with the designation to return and whose $12MM+ cap hit would rank second behind Bradford if he were included on this list. With well over $30MM in salaries currently sitting on IR, it’s hardly a surprise that the Rams have struggled this season and sit in last place in the NFC West.
Other cellar-dwelling teams like the Jaguars and Raiders have a player on this list too, but some teams have held their own despite losing key players — the Cardinals, Browns, and Patriots are among the clubs who have a highly-paid player on IR and still currently have a hold on a playoff spot due to their depth.
Here are the rest of the highest-paid players on IR who round out the top 25 of the current list:
- DeMeco Ryans (LB), Eagles: $6.9MM
- Michael Roos (T), Titans: $6.625MM
- Nick Hardwick (C), Chargers: $6.15MM
- Sam Baker (T), Falcons: $6.05MM
- Matt Cassel (QB), Vikings: $5.75MM
- Stephen Tulloch (LB), Lions: $5.05MM
- Lamarr Houston (DE), Bears: $5.04MM
- Mike DeVito (DE), Chiefs: $4.9MM
- LaMarr Woodley (DE), Raiders: $4.844MM
- Derrick Johnson (LB), Chiefs: $4.55MM
- Morris Claiborne (CB), Cowboys: $4.436MM
- Sean Weatherspoon (LB), Falcons: $4.133MM
- B.J. Raji (DT), Packers): $4MM
- John Abraham (LB), Cardinals: $3.925MM
- Nick Roach (LB), Raiders: $3.771MM
Later this weekend, we’ll take a look at the teams with the most total salary on injured reserve to see exactly how these players are affecting their respective clubs as a whole.
Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.