Another year, another Super Bowl with quarterbacks playing on modest contracts. The caveat this year is the Los Angeles Rams are also paying a decent amount for Jared Goff, now with the Detroit Lions, but the narrative is weathered: Draft a quarterback high, or pay top dollar for a truly elite quarterback — everything else is a waste of time and money.
However, it’s not that easy. An increased investment at the quarterback position makes slack at other positions less acceptable, and a lack of competence surrounding a franchise quarterback can make them look less than such as they start to make the big bucks.
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The truly good investments at the position are the players who are a) on rookie deals and competent, or b) veteran players who are elite enough to elevate those around them, many of whom will not be making the big bucks as a result of their own deal.
In this article, we repeat what we did a season ago, going through the top teams in terms of turning salary cap allocation into PFF WAR values on offense.
For a primer on WAR, check out our MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference paper. For a look at how WAR performs relative to other metrics at the quarterback position, dive into the below Twitter thread from Ben Baldwin.
Essentially, PFF WAR is more stable than any other metric and is second in its ability to predict EPA per play the following season, by 0.01 in terms of correlation.
good stuff from Ben here
— Eric Eager ???????? (@PFF_Eric) February 4, 2022
$65.8 million spent on offense, 6.58 WAR earned on offense
Some of Kansas City’s issues this season stem from the fact it fielded the highest-paid defensive line in football, but make no mistake, the Chiefs were efficient this year spending money on offense. For example, they were the most efficient team at spending money along the offensive line:
the Chiefs' offensive line has earned the most WAR per dollar of any team in the league. Helps having Brown, Humphrey, Smith and Niang (and his backups) on rookie deals to smooth out the Thuney deal. https://t.co/TKkoNFRRwZ
— Eric Eager ???????? (@PFF_Eric) January 25, 2022
$71.9 million spent, 6.51 WAR earned
The Rams are in the Super Bowl this year in large part due to hitting on almost all of their roster gambles. Cooper Kupp was the most valuable wide receiver in the NFL this year (including playoffs), while Matthew Stafford was the fifth-most-valuable quarterback. They also ranked second in the league in WAR per dollar on the offensive line.
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$93.6 million spent, 8.18 WAR earned
Tom Brady went out with a bang, earning the most wins above replacement in the NFL (five-plus) and leading the league in many volume stats among quarterbacks. His surplus value during his two years as a Buccaneer is something of legend:
Tom Brady generated $101.7 million on the field the last two years, while costing the #Buccaneers at most $73.2 million. Pretty, pretty good.
— Eric Eager ???????? (@PFF_Eric) January 29, 2022