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Deal Hunters: Finding Value in the NFL

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NFL teams are worth anywhere from the hundreds of millions to the billions (yes, with a ‘B’) of dollars, so you’d think that owners—and the people they hire—would know how to spot good investments. Yet year after year, it seems that teams sink unbelievable amounts of salary into marginal prospects, mediocre veterans, or one-year wonders. Then again, sometimes teams lock up generational talents that guide their franchises to years of success. So which front offices are getting the best bang for their buck, and which ones might want a mulligan? Let’s have a look.

The NFL’s All-Value Team

These guys may never actually win the MVP, but in terms of pure value, they’re outperforming the rest of the league. For the sake of keeping things interesting, players on rookie scale contracts are being kept out of the discussion (obviously a high-performing rookie would be a fantastic value).

QB: Andy Dalton — Always considered a good-but-not-great quarterback, Dalton has clearly elevated his level of play this season. Boasting a +40.7% DVOA (second-highest in the league, min. 90 pass attempts), Dalton’s contract doesn’t even crack the top-15 for quarterback salaries (by average). Locked up through the 2020 season, Dalton could prove a tremendous value for the Bengals if he can keep up this level of play.

RB: Dion Lewis — With the highest rushing DVOA of all players this season and having just signed a 2-year, $2.6 million contract, Lewis is providing valuable production at a bargain-basement price. It’ll remain to be seen whether Lewis can keep up the same level of performance (or whether he can ever shoulder a full load as a workhorse back), but for the price, he brings plenty to the table.

WR: James Jones — Not to be confused with Indiana Jones, the Green Bay receiver appears to have found the real-life fountain of youth, turning in an impressive start to the season after being cut by the New York Giants. Playing on a 1-year, $870,000 contract, Jones has posted a whopping +81.5% DVOA on the season. At age 31, he may be approaching the downslope of his career, but for now he seems to have plenty left in the tank.

TE: Gary Barnridge — Seriously, where did this guy come from? Signed to 3-year contract averaging $1.25 million, Barnridge was expected by most to be a blocking tight end. So far this year, he’s outperformed players like Travis Kelce and Jason Witten as a pass catcher, and has even approached Rob Gronkowski in terms of production.

Best and Worst Front Offices

Best: Green Bay Packers

At 6-0 and with the NFL’s 7th-lowest cash payroll, the Packers are getting tremendous value thanks to their draft-and-develop approach to team building. GM Ted Thompson rarely signs big free agents, preferring to send his cap space on players that were groomed in-house. To wit, the Packers top 5 players (and nine out of ten) by average salary have never been with another team.

Worst: Washington

One would think that the NFL’s fourth-highest payroll would translate into something better than a 2-4 record. One might even be right, if we weren’t talking about Washington. Owner Dan Synder has built a reputation for front office dysfunction, and even if we give him a partial pass for RGIII (though the fact remains that the 9th highest-paid player on the roster and the team’s top QB no longer sees the field), this team would make the “lifetime achievement award” just for giving a $100 million contract to Albert Haynesworth.

Hey Big Spender…

Our friends over at Personal Capital have put together an infographic to give a little perspective to all the cash flying around in the NFL. While everyone knows the Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the league, I for one was surprised to find their neighbors, the Houston Texans make the top 5. Meanwhile, it’s no surprise that the Rams are looking for a new stadium after placing dead last in net worth.

And though we all understand that on-field talent costs money, it’s also worth noting that hiring the right coach can be just as important an investment. A look at the top 5 reveals seven total Super Bowl wins and is a who’s-who of some of the best coaches in the league. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, we have one coach (Joe Philbin) who’s already been fired due to poor performance and another (Jim Tomsula) who’s seen his team take a major nosedive under his watch.

If you’re wondering about your own investments, why not pay Personal Capital a visit, and check out their calculator for net worth. With their advice and insights, you’ll be able to make smarter investment decisions in no time (hey Mr. Snyder, you reading this?).

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