A post over at Baltimore Beatdown caught my eye this weekend noting that the Baltimore Ravens rank second in the NFL ($121M) in defensive salary cap spend in 2020 - sitting behind only the Denver Broncos ($125M). Just three teams are above the $110M mark on defense (Buffalo Bills at $111M) and all three have fairly stout defenses.
The Ravens went 14-2 and took the AFC by storm last year, while the Bills were a playoff team, so being top heavy on one side of the ball doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot compete. The Ravens, in fact, have the lowest cap spend in the entire NFL (by far) on the offensive side of the ball at $63M with Denver trailing with the second lowest offensive spend at $71M.
Looking over that list on offense, there are a lot of bad offensive teams not spending enough there, with the Raven obviously the exception. Denver could be the exception in 2020 too as they are now loaded with talent under rookie contracts.
Taking a look at the top salary cap hits for Denver in 2020, the obvious leader is their best player and future Hall of Famer Von Miller at $25M next year. He is still playing at an elite level finishing third in the NFL in quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Focus. He did that without any help at all as Bradley Chubb went down early with a knee injury last season.
Six of the top seven salary cap hits next season are defensive players. Kareem Jackson and A.J. Bouye both come in at around $13M, then Jurrell Casey and Justin Simmons at $11M, followed by Chubb at $7.5M. The lone offensive player on the list there is Ja’Wuan James at $13M.
What does this mean for the future?
Not much for at least two seasons as Denver is a team that is in transition. Most of the offensive rookie contracts on offense begin to come due in 2022, which is also when guys like Miller and Jackson will be up for free agency. The Broncos will have a lot of decisions to make at that point. For now, however, they seem to have enough talent on both sides of the ball to make things interesting.