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Super Bowl: How were the Falcons and Patriots constructed

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There are many ways to build a Super Bowl team under the salary cap. For example, look at what the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers did after they met in the 2012 Super Bowl as both teams would end up devoting a ton of the cap to help the defenses. You can also look at the Seattle Seahawks, who would end up appearing in the 2013 and 2014 Super Bowls, and were paying quarterback Russell Wilson under $825,000. While you had teams be somewhat cheap, you also had teams who would spend a bit of money. It should be noted that the 2007 New York Giants and the 2013 Denver Broncos had high- priced quarterbacks in Eli and Peyton Manning.

CBS recently did an article that showed how much both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots spent to build their teams as they are both going to be in Super Bowl 51. They look at each key contributor at the position and on special teams. According to their calculations, it works out that there are fifteen players on each side of the ball. In the list that CBS put out, they would go on to also include reserve list and dead money charges for good measures. You may be asking yourself, “What is dead money?” Well, dead money is a salary cap charge for a player that is not on the team’s roster. Also in this list is the $195 that each team is giving for the voluntary workouts from the CBA.

Before I get into this list, I would also like to mention how each team in the National Football League has a slightly different salary cap from the NFL’s set amount. This happens because of the unused cap that gets carried over each year. There are other adjustments that are done that will either increase or decrease an NFL’s cap room. It should be noted that the current NFL salary cap is $155.27 million. It should also be noted that both teams that will be playing in Super Bowl LI are operating with similarly adjusted salary caps. The Atlanta Falcons are coming with an adjusted salary cap of $158.36 million, while the Patriots happen to be $160.2 million.

What is interesting to note is once you look at the Atlanta Falcons salary cap more closely, you can see that they spend more money on the offensive side of the ball. They spent $67.3 million for guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Donvate Freeman, and others. On the other side, they would end up spending $29.3 million on players like Vic Beasley and others. It should also be noted that nine of the Falcons fifteen main contributors are on low-cost rookie contracts are primarily responsible for the large difference between how the Falcons spend money on both sides of the ball.

On the other side, the New England Patriots end up spending more of their team’s salary cap on the offensive side of the ball. Unlike how there is a large difference with how the Falcons spend on both sides of the ball, the Patriots end up spending approximately $55.05 million on offense and $42.99 million on defense. This is shown as it doesn’t matter who is on the roster, but the Patriots coaching staff makes stars out of anyone. Now I want to look closely at exactly how much each team spends on each side of the ball.

Here is the list of how much the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots spend on each position. It should also be noted that reserve money and dead money will also be included on this list:

Quarterback

New England Patriots- $13,770,946

Atlanta Falcons- $23,756,240

I don’t find this surprising at all. It is very well known that the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan is the NFL’s third-highest cap number during the 2016 season. His cap comes in at $23,756,240. While Ryan happens to be under contract with the Falcons until 2018, it has been reported already that they want to work with him on a new contract during the offseason. On the other hand, Tom Brady has the willingness to sign below the market. Since the 2010 season when Tom Brady had a four-year $72 million dollar contract, he has renegotiated his contract to provide the Patriots with cap relief. It should be noted that Tom Brady is making roughly $10 million less than Matt Ryan.

Running Back

New England Patriots-$3,609,782

Atlanta Falcons- $2,391,137

One way that both of these teams are similar is that they have little investment in their running backs. If you look at LaGarrette Blount, who happens to have one of the league’s best veteran contracts. After he would end up spending around a month on as a free agent, he would end up returning to the Patriots on a one-year deal that will end up running them roughly $2 million which includes incentives. On the other hand, the Falcons tandem of Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman who are both still on rookie contracts, have combined salaries of $1,167,500. It should also be noted that the Falcons and the Patriots use their fullbacks more often than any other NFL team. Their salaries are less than $1 million.

Wide Receivers

New England Patriots- $13,779,104

Atlanta Falcons- $19,593,330

As I am looking over the numbers that CBS provided, I am not surprised by any of them and I fully expected most of them. This is another one that doesn’t surprise me at all on the Falcons side. When you have someone like a Julio Jones who is a first-team All-Pro for the past two seasons, it is fully understandable why in 2015 he became the second highest paid wide receiver. It should be noted that AJ Green of the Bengals made more than Julio Jones did in 2015. On the other hand, the Patriots are in a much different boat. Under Bill Belichick, they have not made it that any of the Wide Receivers are not tradeable. An example of this is if you look at Julian Edelman, who signed a four-year deal worth $17 million in 2014 after he was getting zero interest on the free agent market.

Tight End

New England Patriots- $5,189,485

Atlanta Falcons- $2,391,137

It seems that over the last few seasons, the Patriots have needed to bring in a second tight end after Rob Gronkowski seems to be injured a lot as of lately. So in March of 2016, the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett who was playing for the Chicago Bears at the time. Unfortunately, due to Gronowski’s health problems, the Patriots may put the franchise tag on Bennett that will end up running them in the ballpark of $9.894 million with the salary cap in the 2017 season being $168 million. On the other hand, the Falcons Tight End duo of Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper are both on rookie contracts and are not in the same ballpark as Bennett.

Offensive Line

New England Patriots- $18,701,462

Atlanta Falcons- $19,188,803

If you look at the salaries of the New England Patriots offensive line, then you can see that 90% of the cap charges comes from tackles Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder. It should be noted that Solder’s $10,672.656 cap hit happens to be the NFL’s third-biggest for an offensive lineman. On the other side, you have Marcus Cannon who has done a decent job at filling in at the right tackle position for the injured Sebastian Vollmer, which has earned Cannon a five-year, $32.5 million extension.

While the Patriots have Solder and Cannon, the Falcons are a bit different. Their biggest cap charges come from Andy Levine, Jake Mathews, and Alex Mack. Alex Mack is on this list because he was one of the NFL’s better free agents. He would end up signing a contract with the Falcons for five years and in the ballpark of $45 million

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