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An exercise to explore what I would do and how I would build my team within the cap if I was a GM!

Over the last few years some things have really bothered me about the way some teams go about their business of signing players and reasons for giving some players ludicrous contracts that set their teams back years of development. This has been magnified this year by the drop in salary cap to $182.5m from $198m meaning some teams are cutting players left, right and centre to get under the cap before the deadline. The Saints have cut some really good players and restructured others and are still struggling.

I have put together an idea of how I would run a team salary cap so that I would never have to worry about it whether it went up or down. My team salary cap would be split into percentages for each positional group as mentioned above. This would allow for a set amount of money for each group meaning flexibility to sign players would be available in a number of different ways, maintaining a strong squad while never having to worry about the cap being out done. Players signing a 4-year deal at 10% of the teams cap would also negotiate how many of those years are guaranteed but their salary would remain at 10% if the cap went up or down. If a restructure was needed, then you could potentially pay them 12% for one year then 8% for the second year or vice versa.

Just to make clear the players contract percentage would move with the cap whether it went up or down.

All figures are based on this years $182.5m salary cap

So here we go…


Quarterbacks (15% of total cap) – $27.375m

In the history of the NFL no Quarterback has ever guided their team to Super Bowl glory while commanding more than 12.8% of the teams salary cap. In my mind, that means that my starting QB should never earn more than this amount, no matter how talented. Aaron Rodgers, a 3 time MVP, hasn’t even managed to do this. If you’re starting quarterback commands 12% it leaves 3% for your backup.


Offensive Line (20% of total cap) – $36.5m

The most important unit in football in my mind has to command a decent amount of cap space and there are 5 positions to fill. The top tackles and guards command around $18m as of right now but the average is distinctly lower than this. If you had one star commanding $18m it would leave you only $18.5m for the rest of the group. Likely not a great recipe for the unit however it would be manageable with a good mix of rookie and veteran contracts.


Wide Receiver/TE/RB (19% of total cap) – $34.675 m

This group of players tend to command some pretty big contracts in the NFL with Julio Jones currently accounting for $23m with the Atlanta Falcons. This is beyond ridiculous for a wide receiver, even of Jones’ calibre. If we take the Texans for example, they have 3 starting receivers who are paid quite well with a total cap of $30.25m. This would leave $1.05m for the TE and rest of the backups which isn’t doable. If you have a monster at TE like Travis Kelce who has a $13.5m cap hit then your starting receivers are likely not to be of the Julio Jones level.


Defensive Line (17% of total cap) – $31.025 m

The defensive line is probably the weirdest group to get right here because of the different positions. For this purpose we will include DT, DE and OLB in this group. Currently Aaron Donald commands the highest cost of defensive linemen at $27.9m. This means that really the Rams in my system wouldn’t have much money left to pay everyone else. However Donald is an anomaly in the sport and is probably worth every penny considering he now has 3 defensive MVPs to his name already and is double teamed 68% of snaps. There are a few defensive ends that are around the $22-25m marker.


Line-backers (12% of total cap) – $21.9 m

Bobby Wagner commands the highest cap at this position at $17m dollars but the average is a fair bit lower than this as he is probably the top player at his position right now. There likely are only 3 or 4 players in this group as some will come under the above category as OLB. Really we could potentially combine these categories to allow for extra mobility but for this exercise I’ve kept everything separate.


Defensive Backs (13% of total cap) – $23.725 m

Now I totally understand that Jalen Ramsey commands more than this by himself but he again is an anomaly that totally nullifies the opposition’s best wide receiver. However, I still think it’s a huge amount to pay for a cornerback and you could have a very solid defensive backfield if they combined for the above in salary cap. If your defensive line and line-backers are a stronger unit, your defensive backs may not have to cover for long periods of time.


Miscellaneous Adjustable (4% of total cap) – $7.3m

The reason I’ve left this as Miscellaneous as adjustable is it then provides you 4% to support any area you wish to do so. This area is the only area where you can add cap from other positional groups to support contracts. An example of this would be if your QB is on a rookie contract and so you only use $15 m of the quarterback pool. For 4 years, you can slide the extra money ($12 m) into this section to be used to sign someone else from any position until that rookie quarterback needs to be paid. McCaffrey, for example, catches more passes than most of the receivers on his team so he will take up part of the wide receiver cap room, this means you may be short on money for the receiver core. Any spare money in this section could be used to sign a receiver but they would be signed under ‘Miscellaneous’. Really, special teams should be first on your list however if there is an area where you require a little extra wiggle room this area may provide some help. The key here is that you don’t overpay any of the position groups by exceeding the percentages displayed.

Conclusion

Basically what this should highlight is that some of the contracts that are being paid in the NFL are way too high. The players are asking for more and more at the same time that their teams are doing less and less. There needs to be a really good balance in order for you to win a Super Bowl and right now most teams just don’t have that. They think the fans will respect them for getting a huge name in the door for a new highest ever fee whereas really, fans just want to see wins.

Over the last 2 decades there is one team that’s been more successful than anyone else in the league and that’s the New England Patriots. They never over pay for a player and simply replace them with other cheaper players on ‘prove it’ deals. Tom Brady who now has 7 rings has never commanded more than 12.8% of the teams salary cap and has just taken a pay cut in Tampa so this is the case again. He knows.

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