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PFF ROI: Identifying which teams have the most/least surplus value on their contracts

Some of the greatest minds in football seem to understand better than most that when it comes to NFL roster construction, you aren’t always competing against your past self. You don’t always need to spend big money/draft capital at each position group that wasn’t up to your standards in the prior season to create a better version of that same roster ideology. Sometimes, you need to sit back, assess the market and adapt. 

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We discussed in our debut article on PFF Contract Projections how the NFL position markets settle themselves as a result of a monopsony — single-buyer market structure. There are only 32 “companies” competing for the most talented players. And there are only about 2,500 NFL players each year, with a very small fraction of that group hitting unrestricted free agency each offseason. Teams have a general idea of the overall landscape and should know which position groups are going to be flooded with talent versus which will be scarce. 

At the end of the day, it’s not just about getting results at any cost necessary. It’s about maximizing efficiency and getting the best value relative to the market. You don’t have to beat your past self, you just have to outlast 31 other teams in a war of attrition. As we at PFF have been saying for a while now, the high-priced positions aren’t necessarily the high-WAR positions, and vice versa. The Patriots and Ravens sign and draft a million cornerbacks and safeties for a reason — because they don’t have to break the bank to make a huge impact on the field.

We say all that to set up the following table, which could be misleading for a few reasons at first glance. For starters, here’s what we’ve done: Using our contract projections, we created an approximate average per year contract value for every player on an active roster in the NFL. This, of course, is under the assumption they would hit the market this upcoming offseason, which is not the case for most. Nevertheless, we have a rough idea of their market value at this moment. As the 2020 season progresses, these values will all update with the new information. We then took their actual average per year amounts and compared our projected values to the true cost of each team’s players (thank you to our friends at Over The Cap for all contract data). 

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