“You can’t win anything with kids” said a famous commentator, albeit of a different sport. But In the NFL that is exactly what teams have been doing year in and year out.
There has been some recent focus on the $24.6 million contract hit the Indianapolis Colts are taking on this year’s salary cap for quarterback Andrew Luck. A player off immense talent to be sure but here the problem with the Colts seems to be the absolute dearth of talent surrounding the Franchise player. The Colts simply cannot afford to fill every part of the field with superstars and at 2-4 seem to be paying the price.
In the top 10 of highest paid quarterbacks, other teams include New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and San Diego Chargers, these teams all so far appear destined to not grade the field of Superbowl 51 with season.
Perennial contenders the New England Patriots deal with the cap hit in 2 ways, firstly when required Tom Brady will restructure his contract to make it simpler in a given year for his team to manage the cap hit. Taking money in other years when they have the ability to pay. Secondly Bill Belichick is a master of playing the free agency market and finding young talent in the draft.
The Seattle Seahawks use another method of cap management, they have their core players such as Wilson, Sherman, Thomas and Wagner, and will pay them top dollar, other squad members remain somewhat underpaid and in some ways unhappy, but content enough just to be on the squad of a contender – what is the point after all in being the highest paid Cleveland Brown? The Seahawks also choose to somewhat neglect a certain position group, taking in free agent waifs and strays or lower round draft picks with physical abilities in the hope of coaching them up, pass protection suffers but somehow by mid-season the group begin to gel. Once their contracts are up they will leave for higher salaries and the process begins again.
Another problem position group is wide receiver. A very highly paid position which has seen talents the likes of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Andre Johnson, take up much of their team salary cap in recent years, not one of them has been to a Superbowl. Good but not spectacular pairings have been to the big game such as Cruz and Manningham, Baldwin and Kearse and even Ginn and Cotchery. Look out for the upcoming contract negotiations for the Giants, Bills, Raiders and Buccaneers when they have to renew Beckham, Watkins, Cooper and Evans. The Raiders and Bills will also need to pay Derek Carr and Jamies Winston in the next year or so, it will be very interesting to see these situations play out.
I am not going to tell you that the Superbowl window is open right now for the likes of Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, but simply watch this space in the next few years, before they demand that big money. Perhaps there is hope for the Cleveland Browns, putting pieces into place throughout the team, before going into the draft and taking that big name quarterback. This would in some ways mirror the Seahawks who played for 3 seasons while Russell Wilson was on a third round rookie deal, freeing up money for the rest of the team.
To me the answer is clear, good team management by some of the games very best GM’s is key, Belichick, Dave Gettleman, John Schneider and Ozzie Newsome are names you will likely have heard about for running their teams well, and for very good reason.