Trio of stars make Lions the NFL’s most top-heavy team

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Having good players can be a real pain, at least in terms of the salary cap.

When the Panthers used the franchise tag on Greg Hardy Friday, they committed 21 percent of their entire cap allotment for 2014 on a pair of defensive ends.

But no team is more top-heavy in terms of the cap than the Lions.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have $51.3 million worth of their cap tied up in quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, or roughly 39 percent of the $133 million cap for the entire team.

That limits their ability to create depth, and field a team that is consistently competitive.

“It’s a difficult situation there with depth on the team,” former coach Jim Schwartz told WGFX-FM after he was fired. “They’re top heavy on their cap, and rightfully so. Guys like Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh makes it difficult to have a lot of depth, and when you get those injuries, which everybody does, it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe when you get to the second half of the season.”

That’s a common refrain, as none of the top 10 teams in terms of cap value of the  top three players on the books are coming off playoff appearances.

The common thread among the teams with more balanced ledgers is a young (i.e. cheap) quarterback, as Indianapolis and San Francisco are near the bottom with Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick working on post-lockout rookie deals.

Of course, that’s only going to last for the Colts and 49ers until they have to pay their quarterbacks, which is why they’re stockpiling free agents and draft picks until then.

That’s a luxury the Lions don’t have at the moment.

39 responses to “Trio of stars make Lions the NFL’s most top-heavy team

  1. I would agree that Megatron and Suh are stars, but I’m not sold on Stafford being a star – he’s just paid like one.

  2. “They’re top heavy on their cap, and rightfully so. Guys like Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh makes it difficult to have a lot of depth, and when you get those injuries, which everybody does, it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe when you get to the second half of the season.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of those three got severely injured throughout the course of the year?

  3. Its the life in the NFL. Lions were victimized by the NFL not having a rookie wage scale when they were consistently a top 5 pick. Its comes down to this, you HAVE to draft good in the NFL now in order to complete, no way around it anymore, with all these ridiculous contracts now days. Two teams for example, the Superbowl Seattle seahawks, Russell Wilson, he makes under a million a year, Sherman, under 500,000 a year, and the Superbowl MVP? He was a 7th round pick a few years ago, he don’t make jack. Once all their rookie contracts are up they will be faced with a tough decision. Wilson will sign a 100 million dollar contract, Sherman will become the highest paid corner, it will all fall apart. And my other example is the niners, once kaepernic signs his own 100 million dollar contract, and Bowman, and Willis, the two best line backers in the NFL are off their rookie deal, they both will be top 5 in their position, when it comes to their salary. Life in the NFL, you can’t keep all your stars and it sucks. And let’s face it, the lions haven’t drafted good, until recently. You need to find good talent that can give you 4 good years in rounds 3-7 for cheap, cause once they are done with their rookie deal, and maybe become a very good player, you won’t be able to afford them anymore.

  4. Finally, the Lions start hitting on 1st Round picks…just before the era of big Rookie contracts ends. It’s the Luck of the Lions.

  5. I like Suh but this is why they should probably find a way to trade him. I understand he is not always going to be putting up stats that justify his pay, because he is double teamed. But if other guys do not step up and get the sacks or strips or swats then does it make paying Suh so much really worth it?

  6. There is going to come a time where high paid players are going to have to accept lower salaries to compete, I think Brady started the trend of more guaranteed money and less annually towards the cap to bring in other players. It’s going to be a testament to the players going forward who would prefer to win than just getting paid. And the whole “I have to do what’s best for my family” line is lame imo, if your not smart enough or responsible enough to know how to invest and use your millions of dollars wisely then that’s on you, don’t give the excuse that it’s for your family.

  7. When’s the last time an elite receiver carried his team to a championship? Don’t tie so much money in to one guy at that position. Get a solid crop of receivers along with an elite QB.

  8. And every year we have options and moves we can make to get better for the future and every year we miss those moves and compound our mistakes by investing into new players that don’t make any sense to add to the messy mix. The only reason we have any issue is because we don’t have a GM that knows how to scout and draft well and identify strategic trade opportunities. Our management team has no idea how to build and run a football team.

  9. A lot of the problems with cap limitations and franchise tag numbers, etc. is that too much emphasis is placed on individual player compensation and not enough on team accomplishment. In the next CBA, owners need to insist on reigning in the seemingly never ending upward spiral of the total cap number, and on tying more compensation to items like reaching the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. This way, it will incent players to want to play (and be paid well) for a team that is doing a good job of spreading its resources across all positions and not overweighting just two or three. Make getting to the playoffs and Super Bowl a very lucrative payday for all members of the team, not just some paltry, token amount of money compared to their salaries.

  10. Every team in the NFL has some high end talent that they must pay to certain to premier players. However you can’t keep ALL of your good players so at the end of the day it comes down to whether your GM & his scouts can consistently draft good players.

    I hate to say it but b/c Seattle has drafted so well they are still in a position to be a great team in 2014. However they will either eventually break the bank on guys like Michael Bennett, R. Wilson, Russell Okung, Earl Thomas & R. Sherman who are going to want to be paid at the top of the market (which will limit their ability to keep depth) OR they’re going to have to make a tough call on some very good players & tell them we can’t afford you.

    Seattle–like every other team in the NFL–can’t pay EVERYONE.

  11. “Tom Brady prefers winning to getting paid.”

    A. His wife’s income dwarfs his own. He could play for free and be wealthier than most NFL players.

    B. He didn’t take a single dollar less, they just moved the money to different years. It was NOT a pay cut.

  12. This is an issue that any competent owner would have foreseen and insisted as part of the recent CBA. It should have been simple to put some kind of contract value amnesty program into the new CBA as it benefits both the players and owners. With such a tremendous disparity between the prior CBA contract values for early draft picks and the new values, it’s a tremendous penalty for a team that has struggled for so many years that they FINALLY had success with some early draft picks.

    Yet another reason that demonstrated the Ford family as the worst ownership group in the history of major sports.

  13. I would say Wilson/ kaepernick are the better examples of the opposite situation. Seattle loaded up on FA’s and now has already had to pare back to make room for the contracts coming up.

  14. “That’s a common refrain, as none of the top 10 teams in terms of cap value of the top three players on the books are coming off playoff appearances.”

    Says a lot, IMHO.

    Makes the game more interesting.

  15. Until the Ford’s are no longer the owner’s of the Lion’s do not worry who is making the big buck’s and who is not,the Lion’s are not going anywhere as long as the Ford’s own them.

  16. Matthew Stafford is the most overrated player in the NFL. He’s basically Josh Freeman with Calvin Johnson to throw to.

    Don’t believe me? Just watch the games. Stafford is still making rookie mistakes, he forces too many throws and without Calvin Johnson, he would be a mediocre QB. He’s still young and can turn it around, but if anything, it’s more a testament to the amazing abilities of Calvin Johnson than it is the supposed elite traits of Matthew Stafford, none of which he possess outside of a rocket arm.

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