Examining what each NFL team spends on wide receivers

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Alshon Jeffery had a breakout 2013 season. The Bears wide receiver took off for 89 receptions, 1,421 yards and 7 touchdowns. And playing alongside Brandon Marshall, you could argue he’s not even the best wide receiver on his own team. It’s no wonder he recently said the Bears have the best duo on the NFL.

Is Jeffery right?

Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are a nice bargain for the Bears.
Keep scrolling to see how good a bang for the buck the Bears are getting with this duo. (USATSI)

He and Marshall helped Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combine for an All-Pro season and when compared to other dynamic duos from 2013, here’s how they stack up. Names in italics were on different teams.

Top NFL WR Duos
Duo (2013 Combined Stats)  Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns
Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery  189 2,716 19
Roddy White /Julio Jones 104 1,291 5
Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Floyd 147 1,995 15
Jordy Nelson /Randall Cobb 116 1,747 12
DeSean Jackson/ Pierre Garcon 195 2,678 14
Calvin Johnson / Golden Tate 148 2,390 17
Demaryius Thomas/ Wes Welker 165 2,208 24

Just based on raw statistical production, Marshall and Jeffery were the best one-two punch at wideout in 2013.

But how do they match up financially heading into the 2014 NFL season? (Click to embiggen.)

Based on contract info obtained by CBSSports.com, the average team in the NFL, as of right now, spends $12.58 million on wide receivers going into 2014. The Bears, at $13,909,000 aren’t too far above average. This takes into account  the lucrative extension they handed Marshall last month.

Some other items certainly pop out here:

  • Oh my goodness, Miami. The Miami Dolphins are spending $29,593,000 on wide receivers (mostly because of Mike Wallace ). There’s no team in the NFL even remotely close.

  • The next closest team -- the Seattle Seahawks -- is a surprise though. Marshawn Lynch has traditionally been a key piece of Seattle’s offense. A stark reminder that Percy Harvin , lost for nearly all of the past season, is an expensive weapon.

  • Another six teams -- the Atlanta Falcons , Denver Broncos , Detroit Lions , Houston Texans and Washington Redskins -- are above $15 million in wideout contracts. Four were either mentioned above with the top groups of wideouts and a fifth, Houston, has a pair of dynamic wideouts in Andre Johnson and second-year player DeAndre Hopkins . The Kansas City Chiefs , on the other hand, are an eyesore.

  • It is unsurprising to see the Carolina Panthers at the bottom considering the lack of activity addressing the position this offseason. It’s also interesting that the Baltimore Ravens are there too, given they took over Steve Smith .

How does this translate into your favorite team’s 2014 cap space? Glad you asked!

The average cap space used for securing wide receiver talent for each team in the NFL is about 9.2 percent. A few teams with impressive weapons stand out around or below that number, including the Indianapolis Colts ( Reggie Wayne , Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton , Da’Rick Rodgers), the New Orleans Saints ( Marques Colston , Brandin Cooks, Nick Toon , Kenny Stills ) and the Green Bay Packers .

For the most part, spending cash on wideouts equates to chewing up cap space. But there’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal when it comes to how you pay for production.

But how do these teams look from an efficiency standpoint, which we’ll look at in light of 2014 projections? To determine that dollar figure, I took 2014 fantasy projections from CBSSports.com senior fantasy writer Dave Richard (as of June 2) and broke down the cost per receiving yard for every single team.

Please remember this is just based on projected wide receiver yardage totals. Teams with an elite tight end could have less yardage displayed below (but also less spent).

A lot of things stand out here.

  • The average cost per wide receiver receiving yard per team in the NFL is projected to be $4,410 (roughly the giant red line). That’s really expensive when you think about it.

  • The Seahawks are peculiar. They won a Super Bowl title on the strength of their rushing attack, were an efficient passing offense (8th per Football Outsiders), attempted the second-fewest passes in the NFL in 2013 and still look like a team that could spend heavily per receiving yard in 2014. That assumes Percy Harvin is reasonably healthy, too. If not, their cost could skyrocket.

  • Seeing the Saints and New England Patriots  projected to straddle the league average tells me something about the way those teams operate. Jimmy Graham will cost a lot of money and Rob Gronkowski already does, but both teams were at the forefront of finding market inefficiencies at tight end (unrecognized talent) and wide receiver (don’t overpay and find cheaper, productive options.) The Saints did just draft diminutive speedster Brandin Cooks in the first round, however.

  • Houston is expected to spend more than $1 million per touchdown according to our projections. Well over in fact: $1,387,285 per receiving score. (The average cost is $713,757 per score). Even if you want to be generous and bump them to 20 receiving touchdowns on the year it would cost them $971,110 per score.

  • Miami is even crazier at a projected $2,113,785 per receiving touchdown. Mike Wallace is the eyebrow-raising gift that keeps on giving. At least Miami is a projected top-10 in terms of passing yards to wideouts, unlike the Texans (projected 27th overall).

  • Two projected “cheap” teams are the Ravens and Panthers. They don’t spend much on wideouts and they don’t have much production at wideout. But they pay more per yard than ...

  • … Green Bay is projected by far to be the most efficient team. Our projections put them top five in total receiving yards while its paying less than anyone else in the NFL per yard. It helps to have two start wideouts -- Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb -- in the final year of their respective contracts.

  • On the other end of the spectrum are the Chiefs. Kansas City’s projected for the second-fewest receiving yards from wideouts but managed to spend the second-most money per yard. Dwayne Bowe has a big contract and Alex Smith isn’t a great deep-ball passer.

  • The Broncos and Falcons are both high on the list of teams for total passing yards. Their respective ability to remain within “above average” will be tested as Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones inch closer to free agency.

And then there’s this:

  • The Cleveland Browns are likely to spend more per receiving yard ($4,569) than the Bears ($4,469).

And that’s really the point here: you want to marry production and cost. It helps if there’s a good quarterback on your roster, sure. But even teams with good quarterbacks aren’t immune to overpricing wideouts (see: the Dolphins).

The Bears, meanwhile, found a happy medium. Their top wideout has a mammoth new contract and keeps producing at an elite clip, while they found value in Jeffery, their second wideout and are developing him into a future superstar.

Given the cost Chicago's incurring -- and assuming similar production in 2014 -- it's hard to disagree with Alshon’s from a statistical or financial viewpoint. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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