How Much Money On the Offensive Line Went Unused?

When the Raiders let 3 of their starting Offensive Linemen go in the span of about a week, there was mayhem. What was Gruden doing? The offensive line was supposed to be the team’s strength! The solid pillars that we stood on, and constructed our offense.

And yet, the line, for all its hype, simply hadn’t lived up to that hype. The Raiders, with the #1 most expensive Offensive Line in 2020, finished the season 26th in Run Blocking Grade, and 17th in Pass Blocking Grade. And in 2019, with all of the same starters? 18th in Run Blocking, and 15th in Pass Blocking. You’d think with all that money being spent, you’d be at least Top 10 in one of those categories, no? But we weren’t. And to put it eloquently: that was dumb.

Now, in 2020, there were a lot of injuries. Our Left Guard (Richie Incognito) played, effectively, 1 game (with only 11 snaps in a second game). Our mammoth of a Right Tackle (Trent Brown)? Injured on literally the 1st snap of the season. No biggie though, that’s what your backups are for, right? Don’t worry, they got hurt too.

And yet, something magical happened. The offense was clicking! Like, all season! With.. no, linemen? Well how could that be? Look no further than Jon Gruden, and Derek Carr. Week after week, Gruden showed he could game plan effectively around our turnstile of a line. And, week after week, Carr showed he could lead our offense down the field. The Raiders finished Top 10 in many offensive metrics. Derek Carr had the best year of his career, and Josh Jacobs somehow still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards.

We were even able to strike deep, and with lethal precision. Carr posted an absurd, Elite Passing Grade of 97.8 on Deep Passes 20+ Yards downfield, ranking #2 in the NFL among all starters (behind only Aaron Rodgers, who somehow managed to post an even more ridiculous 99.7 Grade on such passes, in a career year for the future Hall of Famer). And all this behind a tattered, Offensive Line. The team certainly seemed to notice how much we were achieving, despite sub-par offensive line play and poor availability.

And so.. was it justified? For all that money we were paying the Offensive Line, how much playing time did we even get?
How much money was dished out, only for a team to get little (or no) use out of it? Was $20 Million spent on players that barely even took the field?
To answer that, I did a deep dive on every single offensive line player in the NFL that took up salary cap money in 2020. I did this for all 32 teams.

The results? Well that’s below.

IDEA: How many dollars spent, did teams receive play for?

IDEA: How many dollars spent, did teams NOT receive play for?

IDEA: What percent (%) of each team’s total dollars spent on the Offensive Line, did they receive play for?

IDEA: What percent (%) of each team’s total dollars spent on the Offensive Line, did they NOT receive play for?

This helps account for the fact that different teams spent different amounts of money since, in the previous ranking, teams that simply spent more money would be more likely to have more Total Dollars ($) Utilized or Wasted.


But really, what it all comes down to is the Salary Cap.

 Every team in the NFL has to dance with the cap every year, in an attempt to be able to afford the largest amount of good players.
Thus, what’d be great is if we could contextualize this with the percent of the cap that teams received limited (or even zero) Snaps for.
This would also allow us to apply this year’s numbers, to future years, to relay just how much team-building money went nowhere in 2020.

IDEA: What % of the Salary Cap was spent, that teams did NOT receive play for?
At the end of the day, it’s the Salary Cap that every team is trying to successfully navigate.
And so, really, it all culminates in this ranking.

What teams had the largest percentage of their salary cap go to Offensive Linemen that weren’t on the field?
It looks like the Raiders were almost dead last.

But the future need not be so grim. The team was proactive and aggressive in dealing with this issue.
And well, with the revamped line, the biggest cap hit this year will be just $4.3 Million for former 1st-Rd Pick Kolton Miller.
The same Kolton Miller the Raiders just locked up in a 3-year extension that makes his average cap hit over the next 5 years just $13.8 Million/year.

Building a football team is hard. Beyond coaching and the infinite techniques & concepts to master, there are only so many dollars to go around.
In the NFL, you cannot simply pay a tax (or a “fee”) if you want to spend more.
Instead, you have to dance with the same number that everyone else has. 
The teams with the best footwork in this dance tend to be the ones least likely to step on their own feet as they march their way to future success.