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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The phrase “All men are created equal” has been used many times throughout history, most notably in the United States Declaration of Independence.
However, not all teams are created equal, specifically the Denver Broncos. When Broncos’ general manager John Elway constructed the 2016 team, he built a very unequal squad, putting a much greater emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.
Now, entering Week 16 of the NFL season, the effects of Elway’s roster decisions are very prevalent. After two historically-poor games, where Denver’s offense put up back-to-back performances scoring under 13 points for the first time since 1992, the offense is under heavy scrutiny.
But just how fair is this criticism of the twelfth worst scoring offense in the league? One way to answer this question is to see how the resources (money) were divided in creating the team and how it has translated on the field through 15 weeks of the season.
To no surprise, the Broncos did not invest much on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, they spent the fourth fewest cap dollars on the offense, according to sportrac.. Here is a breakdown of the Broncos’ offensive spending (NFL averages in parenthesis):
Cap allocation: $54.12 million ($67.04)
Number of Players: 30 (29)
Average cap dollars per player: $1.8 million ($2.29)
Percent of cap spent on offense: 37 (44)
Although Denver is paying one more offensive player than the average of the rest of the league, they are spending significantly less money per player and overall. Additionally, to no surprise either, this lack of funding for the offense has lead to a below average offense. Denver averages 21.4 points per game, which is twelfth worst in the league.
However, at least according to spending and production, the offense is actually out playing its value by eight spots.
On the other hand, Elway used the money he didn’t spend on the offense to spoil the defense. With Pro Bowl players Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib and other high-priced players such as DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe, Elway shelled out the second most money in the league on the defensive side of the ball.
Cap allocation: $77.38 million ($63.37)
Number of Players: 26 (31)
Average cap dollars per player: $2.97 million ($2.03)
Percent of cap spent on defense: 53 (42)
Despite paying the fewest defensive players in the league, the Broncos have the highest per-player average as well as the biggest percent spent on the defense. While the defense certainly is a top defense in the league they seem to have underperformed by a small margin.
The defense is tied for the fourth fewest points given up per game with the Dallas Cowboys allowing 18.4. However, they are given the second most cap dollars in the league, thus underperforming by two spots.
While this certainly isn’t a perfect science, the dollars would suggest that the defense, not the offense, has been underperforming this season, even at just the slight margin.
This is also based on an aggregate of the entire season and certainly does not suggest that Denver’s offense played up to par in Week 14 and 15.
Certainly, the coaches and players don’t think based on this analysis, but maybe it’s only fair if critics took a step back and held the offense accountable for what they are valued at—not much.