Did teams get their money's worth?

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
8:43
AM ET
Did they get their money’s worth?

It’s a great question now that the NFL season is completely over. Which teams in the league did the best job getting the most value out of their dollars spent?

While the salary cap isn’t nearly as constrictive as it once was, it still serves the purpose of leveling the playing field. The teams that fare the best will typically be the most prudent with the cap, right? Rather than pay a guy at his peak value -- like the previous Jaguars regime did with free-agent receiver Laurent Robinson last year, one could argue -- a team will ideally secure him long-term as cheaply as possible before he approaches his ceiling.

The Guardian recently produced this fantastic graphic that shows us how a team’s cap expenditures for the just completed season were divided up.

To the right is a chart of the AFC South, with ranks in offense and defense based on yardage side-by-side with ranks in those categories based on the percentage of their cap dollars spent.

What leaps out?

Well, the Colts had the league’s 10th most productive offense despite spending the least money in the league on offensive players. Pretty good.

The Titans and Jaguars hit that in reverse. While they spent an awful lot on offense, they ranked very poorly in it.

And it can be argued that that difference does a lot to explain the difference in the Colts 11-5 playoff season and the 6-10 and 2-14 seasons of the Titans and Jaguars, respectively.

We shouldn’t connect the dots without allowing for circumstances.

The Jaguars took a huge hit to their plan for their offense when Robinson missed most of the season because of concussion issues. Would they have gotten closer to their $4.7 million worth out of him based on what we saw when he did play? It seems unlikely. But it would be a lot fairer to call him a poor investment if he’d played in more than seven games.

The Titans lose center Eugene Amano to an arm injury during training camp. Earlier in his contract it became clear to many of us that he was overpaid. But whether he would have played anything like a $5.25 million lineman or not in 2012 isn’t a factor in here. The team took that cap hit for him despite the fact he didn’t play a snap for it.

This is a remarkable graphic to fiddle around with. I suspect we’ll revisit it.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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