Dec 16, 2012; Toronto, Ontario, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice (18) catches a pass as Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (27) defends during the second half at the Rogers Centre. Canada; Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Salary Cap Spending: A Quick Look At Different Philosophies

There are a lot of theories out there about how teams should be spending their salary cap space. The traditional school of thought is that spending should be balanced between offense and defense, but the league has changed and is now much more oriented toward offense than it used to be.

There are proponents of spending much more on offense. This is an offensive league now, so why fight it. More talent in the positions that have a rules advantage makes some sense, right?

There are also people who push for the idea of spending more on defense. The idea is that, as long as you have a good QB, the league’s current rules will allow the offense to be successful. Defense though, is another story. With the rules stacked against them, a very good defense will require more elite defenders than ever before.

Seahawks don’t fall into any of the above categories. The spend substantially more on their offense than their defense, but aren’t among the lead leaders in offensive spending. They do, though, have one of the league’s cheapest defenses.

So which is correct? Let’s take a look at the how teams with different spending patterns fared in 2012. The number indicates how much was spent in millions. In the balanced group, the number indicates the difference in spending between offense and defense. Bolded teams made the playoffs.

Most Expensive Offenses

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 75.8
  • Tennessee Titans 69.1
  • Atlanta Falcons 66.8
  • Detroit Lions 66.6
  • Chicago Bears 64.8
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 64.1
  • Washington Redskins 60.9
  • San Diego Chargers 58.8

Most Expensive Defenses

  • Denver Broncos 70.2
  • New York Giants 68.8
  • New York Jets 68.1
  • Pittsburgh Steelers 64.9
  • Baltimore Ravens 64.0
  • Kansas City Chiefs 63.3
  • San Francisco 49ers 61.4
  • Buffalo Bills 61.3

Most Balanced Spenders

  • Arizona Cardinals .6
  • New Orleans Saints .9
  • Miami Dolphins .9
  • Carolina Panthers 1.9
  • San Francisco 49ers 2.9
  • Houston Texans 4.9
  • Minnesota 5.1
  • New England 7.2

Spending money on offense sure didn’t seem to help teams get into the playoffs. Only two of the top spenders got in, and only one of the top six. Spending on defense wasn’t much better, getting just three of the top teams into the playoffs.

The balanced approach, the traditional viewpoint, seems to have the most success with just four of the top teams getting into the playoffs. Unfortunately though, the four most balanced teams were the ones that missed, and all but one of them missed the playoffs by a lot.

Overall, there simply isn’t a big enough difference to know for sure. This exercise screams “small sample size” to anyone who knows anything about analysis. What it does do is demonstrate that there is no definite way that things must be done to be successful. There are some additional things we can look at, but that’s going to have to wait for another day.

So what are your thoughts on the matter? Is it better to spend on offense, defense, or to be balanced in overall spending?

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