Analysts and beat writers tout quarterback as the most important position in football. Conversely, running backs are devalued in today’s market. The best way to find out which positions matter to General Managers and teams is to analyze the money spent on starters at each position. With that in mind, what positions are the most valuable positions in football today?
*Note this data comes from overthecap.com and their top ten highest paid at each position in order to avoid rookie contracts and depth players skewing the data.
Money Talks – Analyzing Contracts to Find the Most Valuable Positions in Football
Number One – Quarterback
Is it any surprise the most valuable position in football is quarterback? At an Average Salary Per Year (APY) of $46.23 million for the top ten contracts, they blow every other position out of the water. The difference between QB1 and QB10 ($12 million) is more than the average of the highest ten RB contracts ($11.62 million). It’s part of the reason Lamar Jackson’s contract dispute went on for so long, the position gets paid ludicrous amounts of money. Patrick Mahomes is surprisingly only the seventh highest paid quarterback and is as close to the highest APY as he is to Derek Carr at $37.5 million APY. This translates to on field production too, as most of the teams at the top of the 2023 NFL power rankings have a reliable signal caller. It will be interesting to see how high the APY is when rookies Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud are ready for their second contracts.
Number Two – Wide Receiver
Teams will pay up for a top tier receiver. No ifs ands or buts about it. Last offseason saw a flurry of receiver moves that inflated the market. Between A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams top tier players moved all over. The position’s best players make an average of $24.53 million APY. The Chargers have dumped insane amounts of money into the position with the tenth and eleventh highest paid players by APY. Taking into account that Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase haven’t signed second contracts yet, this number will only go up. Receivers are still nowhere close to quarterbacks, but they are healthily paid, nonetheless.
Number Three – Edge Rusher
Since quarterbacks get paid the most on offense, it makes sense that teams pay edge rushers the most to attack them on defense. The top ten contracts come out to a $22.1 million APY, certainly not chump change. The position has an ability to alter a game in a single play (see T.J. Watt and strip sacks). General Managers look to sack production to determine contract value at edge. Of the top ten highest paid edge rushers, all ten have a ten-sack season under their belt. As teams look to build their rosters, edge rusher is clearly a high priority position.
Number Four – Left Tackle
There’s a bit of a theme with contracts these days. Either the guy throwing the ball, the guy catching the ball or the guy trying to rush the passer gets paid the most. Then it moves to the position responsible for protecting the guy throwing the ball. General Managers value the passing game (except Terry Fontenont of the Atlanta Falcons) and pay players to influence every level of the passing play. The disparity between left and right tackle isn’t as much as some would think. The APY for the top ten contracts at left tackle is $19.48 million, while at right tackle it is $16.78 million.
The Rest of the Standings
Cornerback, right tackle and safety round out the five six and seven slots. This sticks with the theme of influencing the passing game. Roquon Smith’s huge deal in Baltimore boosted linebackers to the eight slot. Tight end, each guard slot and running back fill the nine through 12 slots. Which leaves the underappreciated, underpaid centers as the last position analyzed. Jason Kelce is the highest paid center for 2023, and is set to retire any year now. The position will look different once he retires. Money talks, and the most valuable positions in football receive contracts accordingly.
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