Within the last couple weeks, I’ve taken a look at the top 10 cap hits by position around the NFL, focusing first on offense before shifting last week to defense. This week, we’ll turn our attention to special teams, a list that will be considerably shorter than the first two, but should still be addressed for the sake of completion.
While most teams use the majority of their cap room on offensive and defensive players, it’s interesting to consider whether successful clubs devote a decent chunk of space to special teams as well, or whether they’re able to get by with inexpensive contributors at those positions, freeing up more cap room for offense and defense.
Considering the top two cap charges for kickers in 2015 belong to the Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs, and the Jaguars, who have won 14 games over the last four seasons, there may be no clear correlation between team success and cap room devoted to special teams. But our lists below will be accompanied by various observations related to the top 10 cap numbers for each position. Let’s dive in…
- Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots): $4.59MM
- Josh Scobee (Jaguars): $4.388MM
- Phil Dawson (49ers): $4.134MM
- Shaun Suisham (Steelers): $3.665MM
- Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders): $3.61MM
- Robbie Gould (Bears): $3.6MM
- Mason Crosby (Packers): $3.55MM
- Steven Hauschka (Seahawks): $3.325MM
- Graham Gano (Panthers): $3.1MM
- Adam Vinatieri (Colts): $2.75MM
- I was surprised when the Patriots used their franchise tag on Gostkowski, since no other kicker is making more than $3.775MM annually. However, his cap charge for 2015 isn’t an outlier, with Scobee and Dawson also over $4MM as they near the end of their deals. If you think of Gostkowski’s 2015 season as the final year of his previous contract with the team, his cap hit and salary don’t look outrageous. Besides, who better to spend on at the position than Gostkowski, who made 35 of 37 field goals in 2014.
- As is the case at most positions, this list of cap numbers provides a mix of standout contributors and players who look slightly out of place — only three of these players (Gostkowski, Suisham, and Vinatieri) ranked among the NFL’s top 10 most accurate field-goal kickers last season.
- No kicker is locked up for longer than Dan Bailey, who is under the Cowboys‘ control through the 2020 season. Bailey’s cap hit in 2015 is just $2.5MM, but he’ll likely make this list in future seasons, as his figures continue to increase — he’ll peak at $4.2MM in 2018.
- Half of these players will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2015 season. Only Suisham, Janikowski, Gould, Hauschka, and Gano are under contract beyond this year.
- Mike Scifres (Chargers): $4.348MM
- Dustin Colquitt (Chiefs): $3.8MM
- Britton Colquitt (Broncos): $3.75MM
- Thomas Morstead (Saints): $3.4MM
- Matt Bosher (Falcons): $3.355MM
- Michael Koenen (Buccaneers): $3.25MM
- Pat McAfee (Colts): $3.2MM
- Sam Koch (Ravens): $3.1MM
- Steve Weatherford (Giants): $3.075MM
- Kevin Huber (Bengals): $2.77MM
- A handful of these punters are under contract for several more years, but their contracts are structured very differently. Morstead will see his cap hits rise above $4MM for each of the next three seasons (2016-2018), while Bosher’s and McAfee’s cap charges over the same period will dip below $3MM.
- Koenen may not be on this list by the time the regular season begins. His contract includes no prorated bonus money, meaning the Buccaneers could clear his entire cap charge from their books, and the club has brought in Spencer Lanning from the Browns to compete for the job.
- Although I suggested earlier that we may not be able to draw any conclusions from these lists, it’s interesting to consider the teams represented here. Outside of the Bucs – and the Giants, who have had a couple down years after an extended run of success – nearly all these clubs were 2014 playoff teams or just missed the cut.
Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.