Thinking about the four teams playing in the conference championship games this weekend (and lamenting that the Steelers are not among them), it occured to me that there are some significant differences in how these teams are structured in terms of the salary cap and personnel.
You’ve probably heard the “young QBs vs old QBs” storyline that’s been thrown around this week, but I would suggest a different spin on it – “cheap QB’s vs expensive QBs”. Simply put, both Seattle and San Francisco have had the luxury of building impressive rosters away from the QB position because they have not (yet) had to shell out a mega-contract yet to their quarterbacks.
Here is a summary of all four team’s salary cap spending for the 2013-2014 season:
As you can see, Seattle and San Francisco are spending $681,000 and $1.4 million on Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick this year, respectively. For Seattle, that represents just 1% of their offensive spending for the year and for San Fran, the figure is 2%.
Conversely, New England is spending 28% of it’s offensive budget on Tom Brady this year, while Denver has invested 26% of it’s offensive budget in Peyton Manning.
Now, you may argue that both Brady and Manning are worth every penny of that and you may very well be right. It frankly would be hard to argue otherwise and that’s not my purpose here. What I AM trying to point out is that both Seattle and San Fran have been able to use the extra cap space saved by not having to pay a mega-star QB to build a very talented roster at other positions.
If you’ve read my stuff in the past, you’ve seen these salary bubble charts courtesy of The Guardian website. They’re essentially a visual depiction of how much a team is spending at particular positions. A large bubble indicates higher spending, while a smaller bubble indicates less spending at a position.
Here is Seattle’s salary cap chart:
As you can see, the QB spending bubble for Wilson and his backups is mighty small. Instead, the team has invested much more heavily at the wide receiver ($16.8m) and offensive tackle ($18.3m) positions on offense. Ironically, the team is paying substantial amounts to both Sidney Rice ($9.7m) and Percy Harvin ($4.9m) this season and it would be hard to argue they’ve gotten their money’s worth from either player thus far.
Defensively, the team has spent heavily on both the defensive end ($25.5m) and safety ($8.9m) positions and players like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Michael Bennet, Kam Chancellor and Earl Bennett. As Seattle has one of the better defenses in the league, this would seem to be money very well spent.
Now here is San Fran’s salary cap chart:
In terms of offensive spending, the team has commited a fair amount of salary cap spending to the wide receiver position ($16.9) and receivers Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham. On defense, the Niners have a lot of cap space tied up in the linebacker ($17.5m) and cornerback ($15.3m) positions with players like Patrick Willis, NaVarro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Carlos Rogers all commanding high salaries this season.
Just though this was kind of interesting. Again, I’m not suggesting that Brady and Manning aren’t worth what they’re being paid nor am I suggesting that New England and Denver don’t have talent outside of the QB position. Please don’t hammer me with that!
I’m simply pointing out that both Seattle and San Fran have been able to accrue some very impressive talent because they haven’t had to commit such a large chunk of their salary cap spending to the QB position. Their day will come, certainly, as both Wilson and Kaepernick will command very high extensions, but for now their teams are really benefitting in other parts of the roster.
Comments and thoughts are welcome as always. Appreciate you taking the time to read this! Also, it’s worth a minute to check out The Guardian website as they’re salary cap charts are really pretty cool.