Want to Win a Super Bowl? Don’t Buy on Wide Receivers.
Dazzling one handed catches. Sweet juke moves for yards after the catch. Turning on the jets to take a quick slant for six. Everyone loves a great wide receiver and the NFL has a new highest paid WR for the upcoming 2017 season. While these players make highlight reels that keep stadiums filled, is paying top dollar for a wideout the right move if your team has a Super Bowl ring in mind?
Of the about 190 NFL wideouts in total, fifteen NFL wide receivers currently make more than $10 million a year.
15. *Randall Cobb – Packers - $10 Million (2015)
14. Allen Hurns – Jaguars - $10 Million (2016)
13. Tavon Austin – Rams - $10.6 Million (2016)
12. *Emmanuel Sanders – Broncos - $11 Million (2016)
11. Jeremy Maclin – Chiefs - $11 Million (2015)
10. Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals - $11 Million (2017)
09. Desean Jackson – Tampa Bay - $11.2 Million (2017)
08. Keenan Allen – Chargers - $11.3 Million (2016)
07. *Doug Baldwin – Seahawks - $11.5 Million (2016)
06. TY Hilton – Colts - $13 Million (2015)
05. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys - $14 Million (2015)
04. *Demaryius Thomas – Broncos - $14 Million (2015)
03. Julio Jones – Falcons - $14.3 Million (2015)
02. A.J. Green – Bengals - $15 Million (2015)
01. Antonio Brown – Steelers - $17 Million (2017)
* Denotes player who has won a Super Bowl in their career.
Of these WRs, seven have made it to the big game and four have gone home Super Bowl champions (two for the same team in Sanders and Thomas). Of those that won a Super Bowl only Demaryius Thomas was making over $10 million at the time they won the big game.
Let’s take a look at the last five Super Bowls.
Feb. 3, 2013 - The Baltimore Ravens won over the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 34-31. The Ravens top WR was Anquan Boldin who was making on average, over his four year contract, $7 million each year.
Feb. 2, 2014 - The Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos 43-8. Seattle’s top WRs were Golden Tate and Baldwin, both of whom were on rookie deals making less than $2 million a year.
Feb. 1st, 2015 - The New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. Julian Edelman was the top receiver for the Pats - on his first year of a 4 year $17 million dollar deal.
Feb. 7, 2016 - This would be considered the exception to the rule in which Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers to the tune of 24-10. This game featured all-world outside linebacker/defensive end Von Miller - and a Bronco defense with Chris Harris, Malik Jackson, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. Yet, the Broncos elite big money receiver Demaryius Thomas had one catch for eight yards, on six targets. From a standpoint of individual performance he was essentially a non-factor for the game.
Earlier this year on Feb. 5, 2017, the Atlanta Falcons took the field with Julio Jones, a top five NFL WR, but it was the New England Patriots who prevailed in the first Super Bowl to ever go into overtime by a score of 34-28. Still, in his four-year $17 million dollar deal, Julian Edelman was the number one receiver for the Patriots last year.
While one could argue points of Sanders, Thomas, and Boldin all being relatively highly paid wide receivers who won Super Bowls, the trend in the other direction is plain to see that big money wide receivers make great plays (see: Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens). However, even in a pass happy NFL, these tend to not be key pieces in winning the big one. If history has anything to tell us, it’s that perhaps in a few years the Steelers will be regretting making Antonio Brown the highest paid receiver this offseason.
Only time will tell.