A few weeks ago on The Pat McAfee Show, McAfee took a break from practice for his game with Baron Corbin at SummerSlam to talk about which teams spend the most money in the league from a unit perspective. What he found is the Detroit Lions have the costliest offense in the NFL.
At the time, McAfee’s information – via Warren Sharp – was correct, but the Commanders have since overtaken the Lions after some major extensions recently. The lions are currently crawling in second place $125,807,224 in cap liabilities for her offenseaccording to the OverTheCap.com website.
That is a lot. I understand how you can pause when you see something like this. After all, the NFL’s second-costliest offense of 2021 landed in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major statistical category. However, there’s a lot more to talk about for the Lions.
Let’s take a closer look at the Lions’ offensive spending and break it down.
First off, here we’re going to do some comparison work with the four other teams that rank in the top 5 in offensive spending. These teams are, in order, the Commanders, Cowboys, Titans, and Cardinals.
Let’s talk majority spending. For the Lions, most of their offensive spending comes from two different sources, quarterbacks and the offensive line. The lions have them fifth most expensive Quarterback Corps in the NFL and the third most expensive offensive line. Let’s take a look at how that stacks up against the other top-five teams by looking at spend rankings by offensive position.
What do you see here at first glance? I tell you what I see. I see value for the Lions and a lot of that.
Obviously, the Lions are paying Jared Goff a lot of money in 2022. He has the fourth-highest cap hit in 2022 among quarterbacks. That being said, money for the Lions is slim across the board. They are currently in the middle or bottom half of the league when it comes to paying skillful players. It’s something that won’t last forever — Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson all have rookie contracts — but it shows the Lions aren’t overspending on a select few players .
The Commanders are fifth in the league when it comes to receiver spending, and the bulk of that money goes to just two people. Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. The Cowboys lead all running back spending, and almost all of the money goes to just one player. The Titans spend big bucks on Ryan Tannehill, but they also spend big bucks on just Derrick Henry. The Cardinals spend almost all of their wide receiver money on DeAndre Hopkins.
Then there are the lions. Jared Goff’s contract certainly takes up a lot of space, but beyond that, the Lions aren’t spending too much on a player at one position — even on the offensive line, where the Lions are utilizing the third-largest cap spot in the NFL.
Taylor Decker does it third highest cap hit among left tackles in the NFL, but that accounts for just over $18 million of the $50.6 million the Lions will spend on their offensive line this year.
The Cardinals are in a similar boat, but they have the second highest-paid left tackle in DJ Humphries and the highest-paid center in Rodney Hudson. Together, they account for almost $32 million of the $54.2 million they spend on their offensive line.
So yes, despite being second in the league in offensive spending, the Lions are getting a lot of value from what they’re doing right now. The only complaint you could really have against the Lions and their spending revolves around the size of Jared Goff’s contract.
It’s more than fair to say he didn’t live up to his contract, especially during his brief stint in Detroit when his cap hit is at its biggest. The Lions did not have to inherit this contract. They could have taken a different route and made a smaller deal when dealing with Matthew Stafford, but they didn’t. Now they have that contract on the books that may prevent the team from doing more in the free agency world.
However, as I said earlier, balancing the Lions budget makes strategic sense. They focus their spending on quarterback and offensive line – a combination that has proven successful in this league. And they do this without investing a ton of money for just a handful of players.
But that can’t last forever. After all, St. Brown, Williams, Hockenson, Swift and others need to be paid, whether here in Detroit or elsewhere. In a few years, the Lions might as well find themselves in the same boat as the teams, handing out elite-level contracts to individual players. Until then, the Lions are building their offense really efficiently and economically.