$11 billion in revenue. That is what the National Football League is reportedly raking in on a yearly basis these days, and it is a safe bet that value is only going to increase in the foreseeable future. The popularity of the NFL has never before been higher, and the league routinely posts record television ratings each and every season. There is no reason to believe that trend is coming to an end anytime soon, as the NFL has done well to make football Sundays special events in homes and at bars and restaurants. Sunday Night Football on NBC will once again be the top-rated show in the US for 2015.
All of that means that there has never been a better time to be an owner of an NFL franchise. Every club in the league, according to information presented by Forbes in September of 2015, currently has a value of over $1 billion, and all indications are that franchises will be worth even more by the end of the decade. Factors such as location, popularity of the team, and how well or how poorly that team has performed on the field in recent years all affect how much that club is worth to its current owner and also to a potential investor who is interested in financially getting involved in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys. The San Francisco 49ers. The New York Giants. The Washington Redskins. The New England Patriots. These teams make up the top-five most valuable franchises in the NFL for 2015. Anybody who has followed the business of the NFL in recent years could probably guess what team is on the mountaintop of the list. The entity referred to as “America’s Team” continues to offer a reminder that winning may be the only thing in the standings and on the field, but it only matters so much as it pertains to business and also revenue that is generated by a club.
32. Buffalo Bills – Current Value: $1.4 Billion
Terry Pegula and his wife became heroes among local football fans when the owners of National Hockey League franchise the Buffalo Sabres swooped in and bought the Buffalo Bills. There were, until that transaction was finalized, rumors that the Bills could relocate, most likely to Toronto, if a local businessperson did not step up and invest the necessary money to keep the club in western New York. Pegula has assured fans of the Bills that the franchise will not be going anywhere, which is wonderful news for what is truly a great sports community that deserves NFL football.
31. Oakland Raiders – Current Value: $1.43 Billion
The worth of the Oakland Raiders should be on the rise and soon following the 2015 NFL regular season. Oakland has until the end of the year to guarantee that the Raiders will have a shiny new home in the area, or else the franchise will begin taking steps to relocate to another city. Los Angeles continues to be mentioned as a future home of a team, and it is possible that the Raiders and San Diego Chargers could come together to form a partnership that would see those franchises share a stadium. The St. Louis Rams are also believed to be a possible option for the city of Los Angeles.
30. Detroit Lions – Current Value: $1.44 Billion
The Detroit Lions, according to Forbes, increased the prices of season tickets by four percent heading into the 2015 NFL regular season. While that is an understandable decision when you consider the worth of such seats and also the amount of money that is being spent on the roster of the Lions, fans want to see more than just professional football in Detroit eight times a season. The Lions are one of 13 teams in the league to have never won a Super Bowl, and the club has not come all that close to doing so in over two decades.
29. Cincinnati Bengals – Current Value: $1.445 Billion
The Cincinnati Bengals have become somewhat of the red-headed stepchild among AFC North franchises – and no, that is not at all a shot at current Cincinnati starting quarterback Andy Dalton. Cincinnati has not been able to match the Super Bowl glory achieved by division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens over the past decade. The Bengals have been better than the Cleveland Browns, but that has not meant much regarding the Cincinnati trophy case or the worth of the Bengals. Fans of the club are expecting the team to take that next step toward being one of the best teams in all of the AFC. They may have to wait past 2016 for that day to arrive.
28. St. Louis Rams – Current Value: $1.45 Billion
Not so fast, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. You may have some competition for a Los Angeles stadium from the St. Louis Rams. It is now public knowledge that Stan Kroenke is looking to build a stadium in Inglewood, California, one that would be perfect for an NFL franchise. It has been speculated for years that St. Louis would not be the home of the Rams by the end of the current decade, and local fans of the club may not be able to do much but watch their favorite team for as long as they can before the Rams pack up and head out west.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars – Current Value: $1.48 Billion
It is a poorly-kept secret that the NFL wants to expand globally, including exploring the option of moving a current franchise or starting a new team overseas. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the team consistently linked with those whispers, in part because of who owns the club. Along with owning the Jaguars, Shahid Kahn is also the main man in charge of English club Fulham. With Tottenham Hotspur and the NFL coming to terms on an agreement that will include Tottenham and the NFL sharing a stadium, rumors claiming that a team will one day play eight home games in London are likely not disappearing in the near future.
26. Tennessee Titans – Current Value: $1.49 Billion
Those running the Tennessee Titans are hoping that the club has the league’s next big thing at the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota has impressed since his early days in the NFL, and he posted what was, according to the stats, a perfect performance versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his official regular season debut. No reasonable individual is preparing a parade in Tennessee or a Hall of Fame speech for Mariota in September of this year, but the product of the University of Oregon seems to have the goods to consistently win on Sundays so long as he can avoid the issues that often plague young quarterbacks.
25. Cleveland Browns – Current Value: $1.5 Billion
The former minority investor in AFC North side the Pittsburgh Steelers has not been shy about spending money on the Cleveland Browns. He has completed a transaction that cost him slightly less than $1 billion to take the Browns over from former owner Randy Lerner. Haslam and the Browns announced in the fall of 2013 that the team would be pumping around $120 million into FirstEnergy Stadium for improvements to the home of the club that opened back in 1999. It is now on quarterback Johnny Manziel, the former Johnny Football, to make the Browns a valuable team on the field.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Current Value: $1.51 Billion
One could say that the biggest investments made by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent memory have been on young offensive talent who will hopefully carry the club to greatness and soon. Wide receiver Mike Evans, a college teammate of the previously mentioned Johnny Manziel, had a stellar rookie season in 2014. The Buccaneers handed the keys of the offense over to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, a Heisman Trophy winner and first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, during the summer of this year. Winston has the physical tools to be a winning pro quarterback, but he now has to show that he can learn and understand the NFL game.
23. New Orleans Saints – Current Value: $1.52 Billion
2015 is supposed to be the year when the New Orleans Saints experience a downfall that will lead to a reset of the current roster. Superstar tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks during the offseason. Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees will turn 37 years old next January, and Brees did show his age during portions of the 2014 season. Brees has been one of the great quarterbacks of his generation, a Super Bowl champion and Most Valuable Player. No player, not even Brees, can outrun time, and the Saints will soon have to go in a different direction at the QB position.
22. San Diego Chargers – Current Value: $1.525 Billion
Those who have gotten to this point of the piece can probably guess what is going to be mentioned regarding the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers call what is often referred to as one of the more beautiful cities in the United States home, but the team needs a modern football stadium. To receive that, the Chargers may have to partner up with the Oakland Raiders for a deal that would relocate both of those franchises to a different part of California. San Diego fans won’t like it, but it looks like they are going to lose their beloved team. An announcement of that reality could come before 2016.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Current Value: $1.53 Billion
Non-scientific polls that put together random pieces of information to determine the best fans in the NFL often place those who follow the Kansas City Chiefs at or near the top of such lists. The Chiefs have not rewarded fans for that loyalty in recent memory, as the club has largely been a one-and-done playoff team when Kansas City has qualified for postseason play. It was back in January of 2014 when the Chiefs choked away a massive lead against the Indianapolis Colts during Wild Card Weekend. Few analysts are giving the Chiefs any real chance of winning the Super Bowl this year.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Current Value: $1.54 Billion
The Arizona Cardinals made positive headlines earlier this year when the club hired Jen Welter to be the first female NFL coach in history. Welter worked with the team’s inside linebackers during preseason practices and games. High expectations are hovering over the Cardinals at the start of the 2015 NFL regular season, as veteran quarterback Carson Palmer is fully recovered from a serious knee injury that he suffered during the 2014 campaign. Do whatever possible to keep Palmer healthy, Arizona, and the playoffs could be in your future. Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, one of the overall good guys in the NFL, deserves one last chance at a championship.
19. Carolina Panthers – Current Value: $1.56 Billion
What happens when a once-struggling franchise makes multiple playoff appearances? That team raises ticket prices. The Carolina Panthers have done just that over the past two years, according to Forbes, following the club making back-to-back playoff runs. Neither of those runs resulted in championships or even Super Bowl berths, though, and fans want more from their favorite team. Quarterback Cam Newton, who is featured in national advertising campaigns that are showcased on NFL Sundays, will continue to have his doubters until he can help guide the Panthers to the big game as have fellow QBs such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
18. Minnesota Vikings – Current Value: $1.59 Billion
The Minnesota Vikings will move into the team’s brand new stadium in 2016, but that is not on the minds of fans and analysts who cover the Vikings at the moment. Running back Adrian Peterson, who missed all of the 2014 NFL regular season after his controversial methods for disciplining his children were made public, is back on the roster. Minnesota has second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who impressed with his play and his poise during his rookie season, leading the offense. This team is expected to make the playoffs this season, and anything shy of that would be a disappointment for fans.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Current Value: $1.67 Billion
The NFL and Major League Soccer have been business partners for years. MLS side New England Revolution and the New England Patriots share a stadium, and the same can be said for the Seattle Sounders and Seattle Seahawks. That trend is going to continue, as the Atlanta Falcons and a future expansion Atlanta MLS team, Atlanta United FC, will share a venue when that stadium opens. Now that the hunt for a new home is out of the way, the Falcons can concentrate on taking care of business on the field. That begins with quarterback Matt Ryan, as Ryan has to be better if the Falcons are to leap ahead of the likes of the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
16. Miami Dolphins – Current Value: $1.85 Billion
It is often said that Miami is not a good professional sports town unless superstars such as LeBron James are mainstays of home games. People who live in and around the Miami area are not originally from the region, and thus they already have their own favorite teams when they relocate down south. Winning solves everything, or at least that is the old adage often used in the sports world, and the hope would be that football fans would pay to watch the Miami Dolphins if they managed to mirror the New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks. Doing that is, of course, easier said than done.
15. Seattle Seahawks – Current Value: $1.87 Billion
The Seattle Seahawks are, on paper, a bargain at anything under $3 billion these days. Seattle has appeared in back-to-back Super Bowl games, winning one of those and coming up a yard short in the other. The Seahawks have a talented young quarterback in Russell Wilson, a man recently put pen to paper on a new extension that will keep him with the Seahawks for years to come. Seattle posts impressive home sellouts, and the “12th Man” follows the ‘Hawks wherever they play road contests. The Seahawks and Seattle Sounders offer proof that Seattle is a wonderful sports town.
14. Indianapolis Colts – Current Value: $1.88 Billion
Forbes points out two interesting factoids about the financial state of the Indianapolis Colts: The Colts pay just $250,000 per year to rent Lucal Oil Stadium, and the team “has almost no debt.” One would think, then, that Indianapolis should be able to surround young quarterback Andrew Luck with more and better talent. The Colts, according to Spotrac, began the 2015 NFL regular season with $11 million of salary cap space available, and that money could have been spent on providing one of the best overall quarterbacks in the NFL with weapons that he needs if Luck is to out-duel Tom Brady in a one-and-done playoff game.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Current Value: $1.9 Billion
Any new NFL owner looking to achieve success would be wise to examine the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are commonly mentioned as one of the best pro sports organizations in North America. Pittsburgh has six Super Bowl championships to its name. No team in the NFL may have a better “road advantage,” as Steelers fans follow the club from city to city regardless of the team’s record. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be getting up there in age, but he will be looking to show that he has plenty left in the tank during the final years of what has been a historic career.
12. Baltimore Ravens – Current Value: $1.93 Billion
Winning a Super Bowl championship and Most Valuable Player award was not enough to convince every critic that Joe Flacco is, in fact, an elite quarterback. Flacco now needs to use those opinions as bulletin-board material each time he takes the field for a game. Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. announced in August that 2015 will be his last season as an active NFL player. Linebacker Ray Lewis made a similar proclamation in January of 2013, and the Ravens won the Super Bowl during Lewis’ final run. Baltimore fans will be hoping for a repeat performance from the team up through February 2016.
11. Denver Broncos – Current Value: $1.94 Billion
One cannot mention much to do with the 2015 Denver Broncos without also bringing up the name of quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning, the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history, is showing signs that his 39-year-old body is beginning to betray him. There has been much speculation since the end of the 2014-15 playoffs that we could be seeing Manning for one last season, regardless of how he performs. The legend of the sport has not made any such declaration, but it seems reasonable that Manning will want to go out on his own terms and not because the Broncos have given up on him.
10. Green Bay Packers – Current Value: $1.95 Billion
Fans of other teams could not be blamed for feeling that the Green Bay Packers have been blessed by the pro football gods. The Packers were the great success of the Super Bowl era, one that was coached by Vince Lombardi. Brett Favre spent the majority of his career in Green Bay. Farve was, as football fans know all too well, ultimately replaced by Aaron Rodgers, and Rodgers is widely seen as the best quarterback in the NFL today. The Packers are going to be Super Bowl contenders so long as Rodgers is healthy and in his prime. Green Bay will probably just draft an even better version of Rodgers five years from now, because of course that will happen.
9. Philadelphia Eagles – Current Value: $2.4 Billion
Philadelphia sports fans are known for having two traits: Loyalty to their teams, and impatience. Chip Kelly is the current czar of the Philadelphia Eagles, as he has been given free rein to make just about any roster decision that he sees fit. Kelly is a hit among fans of the Eagles at the moment, but he will learn how quickly those supporters will turn on him if he doesn’t take Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title. Thinking outside of the box is admirable and fun to watch so long as doing so results in wins and championships. All eyes will be on you, Chip.
8. Chicago Bears – Current Value: $2.45 Billion
The Chicago Bears are maybe the ultimate throwback franchise of the NFL. Soldier Field, the home of the Bears, has no corporate name attached to it, and the grass inside of the venue is often torn up during games. Chicago’s uniforms bring back memories of decades ago before the NFL was a media conglomerate. Additional memories that come to mind when fans think of the Bears are the numerous costly mistakes that quarterback Jay Cutler has made over the years. The Bears are married to Cutler because of the terms of his contract unless a trade proposal comes from another team. Best of luck with that, Chicago.
7. Houston Texans – Current Value: $2.5 Billion
Is superstar defensive end J.J. Watt really the best player in the NFL? No, he is not, if only because he does not play quarterback in a league that favors passing attacks. What Watt is, however, is a recognized name and an All-Pro who is becoming a brand all on his own. Watt signed a contract extension with the Texans in 2014, one that could keep him with the Texans up through the end of the decade, and Watt is also a showcased athlete for multiple advertising campaigns. The Texans are still searching for a franchise quarterback, though, as Ryan Mallet has yet to show that he can be one for any NFL team.
6. New York Jets – Current Value: $2.6 Billion
The biggest reason that the New York Jets are not worth more money in 2015 is that the club remains the little brother of New York professional football, the New York Mets to the New York Yankees. It was the New York Giants and not the Jets that brought a first Super Bowl championship celebration to MetLife Stadium, and the Jets are in the middle of another reset that included changes in the front office and the coaching staff. Todd Bowles can make Jets fans quickly forget about Rex Ryan if Bowles can post a winning record in his first season as the Gang Green head coach.
5. San Francisco 49ers – Current Value: $2.7 Billion
Forbes reports that Levi Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers which opened in 2014 and a venue that will be used for other events, have a value of $1.2 billion. That alone is not why the San Francisco 49ers are worth so much, but it doesn’t hurt. What is a worry is that the football operations of the 49ers has been a mess as of late. Head coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly had numerous spats with management before leaving the club to become the coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Say whatever you will about his methods. Harbaugh was successful in San Francisco, and new head coach Jim Tomsula has some big shoes to fill.
4. New York Giants – Current Value: $2.8 Billion
The Giants have made it a habit of participating in Super Bowl games at least once a decade since the second half of the 1980s. Big Blue has had stability in ownership and the front office. Tom Coughlin, who could ride off into the sunset after the 2015 season, has been the head coach of the Giants since 2004. Eli Manning has been the starting quarterback of the Giants for nearly as long. The Giants have been a model NFL franchise and kings of the New York football market. It is not a stretch to believe that the Giants would probably be worth over $3 billion if it was put on the market.
3. Washington Redskins – Current Value: $2.85 Billion
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder does not care all that much about what you think of his team’s nickname or logo. He seemingly does not care all that much about what his team’s coaching staff feels about quarterback Robert Griffin III. Snyder should probably be concerned with the fact that his team is seen as the worst in the NFC East and a franchise that is a black hole for head coaches so long as Snyder owns the team. Perhaps the best thing for everybody involved would be for Snyder to see the writing on the wall and sell the Redskins.
2. New England Patriots – Current Value: $3.2 Billion
Fans of the New England Patriots would tell all detractors to take a look at the scoreboards. Tom Brady, maybe the greatest quarterback of all-time, now has four Super Bowl championships on his resume. He also notched a victory over NFL Commissioner over Roger Goodell in the “Deflate-Gate” matter that dragged on and on up through the final week of the 2015 NFL preseason. Owner Robert Kraft has a juggernaut in the Patriots, and Kraft may very well be the most-powerful man in the NFL now that his quarterback has taken it to Goodell in court. 2015 has been a year to remember for Kraft, Brady and company.
1. Dallas Cowboys – Current Value: $4 Billion
The Dallas Cowboys dominate the financial aspect of the NFL according to Forbes. This is the ninth straight year, Forbes claims, that the Cowboys are the most valuable team in the NFL. The $620 million in revenue that the Cowboys brought in over the past year was a record for the league. Being atop these lists probably puts a smile on the face of team owner Jerry Jones, but not as much as would the Cowboys ending a Super Bowl drought that has lasted two decades. When it comes to money, though, the state of the NFL can be broken down with a simple question: “How ’bout dem Cowboys?”