If you were to take a walk down any street in America and ask people what position they felt was the most important for a football team, more than likely most of them would say "quarterback". It is not a bad choice considering the quarterback touches the ball every single down and calls the plays the offense will run. No doubt, the QB deserves a great deal of credit for the success of a team.
However, the real NFL junkie will tell you that if a team desires to win the Super Bowl, they need a strong offensive line. The big game has been won by a myriad of quarterbacks. Guys like Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana have all hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. So have passers like Trent Dilfer, Doug Johnson and Joe Flacco. The truth is, no team has ever won a championship without a top flight offensive line.
The o-line does not get enough credit. That is probably because there are not many ways to attach numbers to what they do. They do not get rushing yards or receiving touchdowns. They just go out and hit guys in the mouth each and every play. It is hard for spectators to decide what to consider "good" and "bad" for these positions. Basically, it comes down to whether or not the offense moved the ball and if the quarterback felt pressure.
Since it is the week leading up to the Super Bowl, we decided it would be a good time to look at how some of the NFL’s most important and under appreciated players were being compensated. These teams are ranked by how much they spent on all five of their starting offensive linemen. Here is how they stack up.
10 Kansas City Chiefs O-Line Salary: $17,425,290
Part of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs went from being the laughing stock of the NFL to one of the most feared teams in the game is its effective front line. Jamaal Charles could not have been the game's most dominant player out of the backfield without them. The Chiefs have invested north of $17 million in their big guys up front. The highest-paid player is Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert who brought in $9,828,000 in 2013. The investment proved to be worthwhile considering they gave up the twelfth-least quarterback hits in the league.
9 Washington Redskins O-Line Salary: $17,635,198
One area the Redskins are not going to have to focus on during the offseason is the offensive line. The starters are paid $17,635,198 all together, with one of them (Trent Williams) being voted into the Pro Bowl. Williams is the highest-paid member of the squad, earning $7,985,198 in 2013. When looking at the numbers, one thing does stand out. Redskins’ quarterbacks were hit 96 times this season. The front office has done all they can to give Robert Griffin III some big bodies up front. This stat can be explained away by the fact that the franchise passer often held onto the ball much too long.
8 Minnesota Vikings O-Line Salary: $17,932,235
The Minnesota Vikings field one of the most talented running backs in NFL history. However, Adrian Peterson would be the first to give credit to his mammoth offensive line. The Vikings do not have a standout lineman, but they do pay for very talented starters. Unlike some of the teams on the list, the Purple People Eaters spread their $17,932,235 budget out pretty evenly between all their linemen. This should prove how badly the team needs to find a franchise quarterback. Whoever is starting for the Vikings has a top five back, speedy wide receivers and a big time offensive line at his disposal. There is no excuse for this offense to be as lackluster as it is.
7 New York Jets O-Line Salary: $18,457,234
The Jets have a very similar situation to the Washington Redskins. The team paid the big guys up front a total of $18,457,234 last season. Their center, Nick Mangold, is one of the best in the game. Mangold made $9,117,000 in 2013 and rewarded the team with good enough play to earn a trip the Pro Bowl. Another interesting name on the line is D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Ferguson did not make the Pro Bowl this year, but has in the past. The unit gave up 47 sacks this year, but this number should decrease as quarterback Gino Smith becomes more familiar with the speed of the game.
6 Cincinnati Bengals O-Line Salary: $18,457,234
Sometimes paying the most money does not mean one is getting the best value. However, the Cincinnati Bengals are the best offensive line unit on this list. The guys up front only allowed their quarterback to get hit 47 times and he was sacked on a mere 29 occasions. For this type of impressive play, the front office forked out $18,457,234 to the five guys up front. Despite the great numbers, none of the members were rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
5 Cleveland Browns O-Line Salary: $21,194,441
The Cleveland Browns are the polar opposite of their cross-state, division rivals. Unlike the Bengals, the Browns fielded two Pro Bowlers in Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Thomas is the highest-paid offensive lineman in the game, earning $11.4 million last season. To make that number stand out even more, it is more than any of the ten teams with the least expensive offensive lines pay all of their starters. The Browns' offensive line cost them a grand total of $21,194,441. So, did they earn that kind of money? To get the answer, one just needs to consider the fact the Browns’ quarterback was brought to the ground more than anyone else at the position.
4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers O-Line Salary: $21,780,333
The Bucs are one team that definitely believes football games are won in the trenches. They are one of the few teams in the NFL that pays each of their starting offensive linemen at least $2 million. In 2013 the team invested $21,780,333 in their five starters. Of the top ten most expensive offensive lines, only the Cleveland Browns allowed more sacks than Tampa Bay. Not only this, but the team also had three running backs get injured during the course of the year. Something is not right here. It seems the Bucs’ front office is not getting what they are paying for.
3 Tennessee Titans O-Line Salary: $21,833,183
The Tennessee Titans have a great offensive line. He may not be a big-name player like Chris Johnson, but Michael Roos is definitely a monster. Roos, who was snubbed by Pro Bowl voters, earned $7.5 million in 2013. All together, the Titans spent $21,833,183 on its offensive line. Led by Roos, the unit allowed the second-lowest number of sacks of any team on this list.
2 Seattle Seahawks O-Line Salary: $22,368,258
Just in case you have not heard yet, the Seahawks are going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Remember, no team has ever won a Super Bowl without a high-quality offensive line. The Seahawks definitely pay enough to have one. The unit cost a total of $22,368,258 in 2013. They fielded one member of the 2013 Pro Bowl, center Max Unger. Unger is not the highest-paid member of the line, though. That honor belongs to Russell Okung who brought in a very nice $9,540,000. The line did not perform poorly this year, but they were definitely not as strong as others. The Seahawks up front allowed Russell Wilson to get sacked 44 times and hit 94 times.
1 Philadelphia Eagles O-Line Salary: $23,531,040
Topping our list of the most expensive offensive lines are the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles spent a whopping $23,531,040 on their starting offensive linemen in 2013. Left tackle Jason Peters was the biggest contributor to that number. The Pro Bowler made $11,042,000 for last season, making him the second-highest-paid lineman in the NFL. The guys up front allowed an average amount of sacks, but were able to give their quarterback a decent amount of time to make plays. Both Michael Vick and Nick Foles were only hit 79 times through the course of the 2013 season.