SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 19: San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch congratulates San … [+]
MediaNews Group via Getty Images
The New England Patriots aren’t playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl but their influence will be present with one of the teams that will be vying for the Lombardi Trophy.
For years, the Patriots had the most unusual salary structure in the NFL. While most teams built their roster on a group of eight to 10 high-priced stars, the Patriots typically had more low-priced veterans than any team in the NFL.
That’s the model used by the Kansas Chiefs, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. In fact, the team constructed by general manager Brett Veach has more low-priced veterans than any team in the NFL this year.
OverTheCap.com breaks down rosters by what it calls “texture.” By annual salary, the 32 highest-paid players in the league ($15.5 million to $30.7 million per season) are elite, players 33 through 160 ($8.4 million to $15.5 million) are high, players 161 through 320 ($4.45 million to $8.39 million) are middle and every other veteran player falls under the low-priced category.
The Chiefs are No. 1 in spending on low-priced players and No. 4 on middle-priced players. On the other hand, they are No. 31 on high-priced players (with only tight end Travis Kelce) and No. 19 on elite players (with only receiver Sammy Watkins). While many teams supplement all of their high-priced players with scores of players on inexpensive rookie deals, the Chiefs’ rookie-contract spending ranked 29th.
Helping the Chiefs, of course, is that one of those players on a rookie deal is quarterback Patrick Mahomes. A third-year player, his base salary is $645,000 and cap hit is $4.48 million.
“A lot of credit goes for what we’ve done goes to him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Look what he did with our defensive side of the football, as far as personnel goes. My hat goes off to him. I think he’s done a phenomenal job.”
Chiefs GM Brett Veach shakes hands with a fan before a game against Dallas. (Photo by Ron … [+]
The 49ers have a more balanced roster under executive of the year John Lynch. They rank 18th on money spent on elite players (with only quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo), seventh on high-priced players (left tackle Joe Staley, edge rusher Dee Ford, outside linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive lineman Arik Armstead), 13th on middle-priced players and 14th on low-priced veterans. By number of players, the 49ers have the third-most veterans in those elite, high and middle areas. Thus, in almost a polar opposite to the Chiefs, the 49ers are second in rookie-contract spending.
San Francisco has a healthy cap because of the way Lynch was able to structure Garoppolo’s contract. His five-year, $137.5 million contract was front-loaded with a $28 million roster bonus that was put on the 2018 cap. That means Garoppolo’s cap number went from $37 million in 2018 to $19.85 million for 2019 before stabilizing at $26.6 million in 2020, $26.9 million in 2021 and $27.0 million in 2022.
Contrast that contract to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst, restructured Rodgers’ deal just before the end of the 2019 season to provide badly needed cap space for 2020. By doing so, however, a 39-year-old Rodgers will have a cap charge of $39.85 million in 2022.
Lynch went from Fox broadcaster to 49ers general manager in 2017. Only seven members of the 53-man roster were inherited by Lynch.
“I never thought you could equal the feeling of going to the (Super Bowl) as a player,” said Lynch, a star safety who is a Hall of Fame finalist, “but this one’s just as good.”