Spending top-dollar on hand-picked players typically pays off for NFL offenses, but these moves can occasionally backfire.
Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, their high-priced offense is one of the best in the NFL. Unfortunately, this is not the case for some of the other offenses ranked within in the top 10 in money spent.
Just as a few of those franchises mentioned here are bound to surprise, some of the league’s most successful offenses won’t be seen on this list. Let’s just say only one of the teams that played in this past February’s Super Bowl will be covered here.
Each NFL team is working to make the most of its salary cap and to eventually finalize to a 53-man roster. This leads us to explore the 10 most expensive offenses heading into 2017.
All salary and cap numbers are provided by Spotrac.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell make for one of the most powerful offensive trios in the league.
— Steelers (@SimonAChester) June 7, 2017
The Steelers boast the most expensive offense in the league, topping nearly $100 million. Big Ben’s offensive line eats up nearly $40 million annually. Center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro are the highest paid and each earn $11.05 million per year.
As for the receiving corps, wideout Antonio Brown just signed a grand new deal that occupies $13.62 million of that $20.48 million on the pie chart. Brown more than earned his keep before the Steelers emptied their wallets into his bank account.
Bell occupies $12.12 million of the team’s salary cap for now. But, he is due for a long-term deal that could come before he is forced to play this year out under the franchise tender.
The Steelers as a whole made it to the conference championship this past season. Now the clock is ticking to get to the postseason once again before Roethlisberger calls it quits altogether.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Worth it or not, the Eagles are currently spending the second-most money in the league on their offensive players. Philadelphia’s offense for 2017 costs $98,195,649.
But quarterback Carson Wentz is not the highest paid on the team, occupying just $6.06 million in team cap. Wentz’s left and right tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson soak up $11.7 and $9.84 million, respectively. Guard Brandon Brooks earns $7.2 million. Protecting the face of the franchise does not come cheap.
Meanwhile, the Eagles invested richly in some help for Wentz in signing veteran wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. His annual paycheck accounts for $9.5 million of the team’s cap.
Comparatively speaking, the Eagles expenditures shake out nothing like those of the Steelers.
Last year, the Eagles finished 7-9 at the bottom of the NFC East. They are a promising team, featuring a second-year quarterback and head coach. With time the Eagles could move nicely up the food chain.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons offense occupies $97,229,705 of the team’s salary cap. Considering last year’s team played out of its mind, it looks like money well spent in Atlanta.
— Atlanta Falcons Buzz (@NFLFalconsBuzz) June 4, 2017
Quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. produced the highest-scoring offense in the league, averaging 33.8 points per tilt. The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback also passed for a career-high, 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns last year. His salary weighs in the heaviest and occupies 13.18 percent of the team’s overall cap.
The Falcons have also invested in their wide receiving cast, which consists of Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Between the three, they eat up $24.05 million.
Center Alex Mack, guard Andy Levitre and left tackle Jake Matthews do an excellent job protecting Ryan. The trio accounts for $20.90 million.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are getting off dirt cheap so far with running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Combined they occupy roughly $2.8 million in salary space. Eventually, the team will have to budget for a giant raise for Freeman, who will be playing out his fourth year in 2017.
Likely, another fantastic year is on tap for a nearly unstoppable Falcons offense.
4. Washington Redskins
Washington’s offense is right up there with the priciest ones, costing $96,978,419.
Right off the top, Washington placed a franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins for the amount of $23.94 million for 2017. The team will have to decide what to do about Cousins following this season. Whether he remains with Washington or migrates, he should command a pretty hefty salary.
Left tackle Trent Williams is the highest-paid offensive lineman weighing in at $15.14 million.
To the surprise of many, Washington’s newest wide receiver, Terrelle Pryor hits the team’s cap at $6 million. Tight end Jordan Reed rounds out the top-five highest paid on Washington’s offense, soaking up three percent or $5.74 million of the salary cap.
Washington will have the tough task once again of competing with the suddenly red-hot Dallas Cowboys and stout New Giants to win the NFC East.
5. Arizona Cardinals
Head coach Bruce Arians runs a tight ship. His team’s fifth-most expensive offense averaged a notable 26.1 points in 2016. The current hit to the team’s overall salary cap is $92.38 million.
Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald not surprisingly eat up a whopping 22.53 percent of that figure. Palmer is signed with the team through 2018 and Fitzgerald’s fully-guaranteed $11 million salary takes him through 2017 season.
Outside of Palmer and Fitz, left tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Mike Iupati combine for $19.7 million.
Interestingly enough, tight end Jermaine Gresham has a $3.75 million cap hit while workhorse running back David Johnson earns a meager $799,843 in salary. We recently discussed Johnson, who made our list of NFL players who deserve huge raises.
Soon enough, the Cardinals will have to make room to fork over the big bucks to their star running back. But the goal for now would be for both Palmer and Fitzgerald to make it to a championship game before they retire.
6. Carolina Panthers
Quarterback Cam Newton’s offense sputtered its way through 2016, finishing 19th in the league. Overall, the team’s offense occupies $92.122 million in team cap space heading towards the new season.
The Panthers made Newton a rich man when they signed him to a five-year $103.8 million contract in 2015. Newton’s jumbo salary eats into 10.92 percent of the money spent on offense.
Tight end Greg Olsen, who is about as reliable as they come, accounts for $10.35 million in pay. Meanwhile, Panthers center Ryan Kalil, right tackle Michael Oher and left tackle Matt Kalil total for $17.83 million in cap dollars. Oher by the way, has yet to be cleared from concussion protocol. He also might not be a salary concern for the Panthers soon here according to this news.
Michael Oher's time in Charlotte appears to be just about done. https://t.co/Ex77sefvi8
— Joe Person (@josephperson) June 9, 2017
The running back tandem of veteran Jonathan Stewart and rookie Christian McCaffery occupy a total of $9.31 million in salary cap. And former 2014 first-round pick, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, rounds out the top 10 in highest cap hits at $2.44 million.
The Panthers can only hope their offense gets its groove back in 2017. Rookies McCaffery and wide receiver Curtis Samuel should be tremendous assets to Newton this fall.
7. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are always a tough team to compete against in the NFC North. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his offense weigh in at No. 7 with a current cap hit of $89.058.397.
To nobody’s surprise, Rodgers’ salary equates to 11.54 percent of the that cap. The Packers also spent big money on wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who combine for approximately $24.2 million in salary. It was only in 2015 that the Packers entered into a four-year $40,000,000 contract with Cobb.
Right and left tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari are the next-best paid, occupying slightly over $13.8 million salary.
New to the Packers offense, tight end Martellus Bennett signed a three-year $21 million deal in the offseason. That’s quite a bit more than tight end Richard Rodgers, who takes up only 1.09 percent of the team’s cap space.
As for running backs, the Packers save tons by paying newly transitioned Ty Montgomery only $788,636 in 2017.
However it all shakes out in 2017, the Packers should remain one of the more dominate offenses to deal with in the entire NFC.
8. Buffalo Bills
Some may find it alarming that the Bills spend the eighth-most money on their offense. Yet year in and year out, the team struggles to advance to the postseason. Big salaries are being paid, and numerous quarterbacks have been under center since 1999. This year marked the last time the Bills earned a playoff berth.
So who is making what? Left tackle Cordy Glenn, drafted in the second round in 2012, earns the most. His salary counts for $14.2 million, or 8.24 percent of the Bills’ cap. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills hesitantly seem to be committed to, occupies roughly $9.71 million in salary.
Next, the Bills made tight end Charles Clay one of the best-paid in the league in 2015. He’ll earn a cool $9 million this year around. Running back LeSean McCoy rightfully commands his pay and takes up $8.87 million in cap. And 2014 first-round wideout Sammy Watkins takes home $6.43 million. But in not-so shocking news, the Bills decided not to commit to the injury-prone receiver’s fifth-year option.
As for the rest of the offensive line, center Eric Wood earns $7.58 million. Guards Richie Incognito and Ryan Groy combine for $7.42 million.
We will see soon enough if the ninth head coach the team has had since 1999 finally makes a significant difference.
9. New Orleans Saints
The Saints are another team trying its hardest to get to the postseason. This will hopefully be accomplished while quarterback Drew Brees is still employed. In not-so-breaking news, Brees’ $19 million salary commands 11.19 percent of the team’s total $87.13 million spent on offense.
Left tackle Terron Armstead’s salary eats up $7.5 million. Also taking up $7.5 million in cap is tight end Coby Fleener. Many might think that Fleener didn’t exactly earn his keep when he scored only three times last year in his debut with the team.
Center Max Unger, whom the Saints traded away fot tight end Jimmy Graham in 2015, takes up $7.4 in cap dollars. Hopefully, he will be ready to play by the start of the season due to a foot injury. The Saints also pay $6.1 million to right tackle Zach Strief.
Running back Mark Ingram is rightfully the highest paid at his position, occupying $5.24 million in salary cap. Newly signed running back Adrian Peterson’s budget-friendly salary of $2.25 million pales in comparison.
As for receivers, believe it or not veteran Ted Ginn Jr. earns the highest salary taking up $3 million in this year’s cap. Second-year receiver Michael Thomas is a bargain basement deal, accounting for less than one percent of the offense’s costs.
Taking this all into account, the Saints produced the No. 1 best offense in 2016. Winning more than losing though is key, however. So it will fall to the defense to pick up some slack if the Saints want to play beyond Week 17 this year.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Rounding out the top-10 most expensive offenses are the newly re-located Chargers. The team currently spends $85,578,894 million on quarterback Philip Rivers and Co. Rivers and wide receiver Keenan Allen combine for $28.65 million in salaries.
Meanwhile, wideout Travis Benjamin, new to the Chargers last year, occupies $6.5 million in salary. Left and right tackles, Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale earn $6 and $5.55 million respectively.
Veteran tight end Antonio Gates, signed only through 2017, makes for a $5.44 million cap hit. Eventually, young tight end Hunter Henry will inherit the starting role.
Running back Melvin Gordon, who had a tremendous bounce-back second year in 2016, takes up an affordable $2.9 million. Meanwhile, first-round wide receiver Mike Williams will be nicely paid, (more than Gordon) at $3.59 million. Hopefully, his health will prevail (more on that here).
On paper, the Chargers have one of the most dynamic offenses and durable quarterbacks in the league. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together correctly and staying healthy, unfortunately, seems to be the problem on offense the last couple of years.