Why I don’t really care the Titans were 29th in spending

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You may have seen this piece by Paul Kuharsky at AFC South Blog based off an entry by Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network showing how much cash each NFL team spent per win from 2004 to 2008.  Now, Paul wrote about the “cost per win” data, but LaCanfora’s more interesting piece is the one I actually linked to, showing how much each team actually spent from 2004 to 2008.  And the Titans in that ranking were 29th, having spent about $100 million less than the highest spending team, the Cowboys.  So, Bud Adams is cheap, right?

To quote Lee Corso, not so fast, my friends.  After all, the post Paul linked to showed the Titans were 13th in spending per win.  I just indicated I’m not sure how meaningful a metric that is, but it’s at least some evidence the Titans were actually reasonably efficient at spending the money they did have.  But there’s another reason I don’t really care the Titans were 29th in spending.


Take another look at the actual list of teams that were tops in cash outlays.  Behind the Cowboys in #1, you have the Seahawks at #2, Redskins at #3, Vikings at #4, and Colts at #5.  The Cowboys and Redskins have well-deserved reputations for owners who are willing to break open their bank vaults in free agency, and Seahawks owner Paul Allen is certainly well-heeled, but the Colts sure don’t sign high dollar free agents and the Vikings have to do things like issue capital calls to their investors to pay for Jared Allen’s new deal.

No, what puts teams like the Seahawks, the Colts, the Vikings, or the #8-10 Steelers, Panthers, and Pats, among the high spenders, is making sure they keep their best players around.  The way you do that is by restructuring their contract, and giving them signing bonuses, which are expended in the year they are paid but count against the cap in the future.  That’s why the Titans rank so low-Bud Adams spent a fair bit of coin between 2000 and 2003 keeping together the core of that very successful team.  By 2004, though, when LaCanfora’s data starts, the Titans had used up that cap room on prorated signing bonuses.

When the Titans did have money available, though, they used it-on signing Thornton, Givens, Mawae, and Hope before the 2006 season, to provide a needed influx of veteran talent.  The Givens signing didn’t work out the way they wanted, but that’s another reason they’re lower on the list-they didnn’t have to pay the later, bigger dollar years on his contract.  They signed Roos and Stewart to long-term extensions last year.  Both were big total deals, but neither had the sort of 8 figure signing bonus that got you on LaCanfora’s list.  Another signing along the same lines was Finnegan’s extension-locking up a good player at what for the team was a very favorable amount.

That’s right in line with the strategy of the most successful team of this decade not on the top of LaCanfora’s list-the Philadelphia Eagles, down at #20.  Jeffrey Lurie’s team hasn’t had as much playoff as regular season success, with only one Super Bowl trip, but they’ve been an excellent example of how to run an NFL franchise, and one the Titans seem to be emulating.  Spending money, but spending money intelligently, is the mantra for success in the NFL.  And the Titans being 29th in cash expenditures from 2004 to 2008 is not telling us anything about how intelligently they spent their money in that time period.

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One Response to “Why I don’t really care the Titans were 29th in spending”

  1. joe football Says:

    The proliferation of articles on supposed ‘efficiency’ in managing team finances wrt the roster/cap is tiresome. The few cheap teams in the NFL are self-evident to everyone and even they aren’t that far out of the pretty narrow spending range. You have done well to expose what a sham these metrics are

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