If you've read Tom E. Curran's latest column, you know the New England Patriots are going cheap at quarterback in 2020.
Forget Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton or Cam Newton. The Patriots are rolling with Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and two undrafted free agents, allocating just 1.5 percent of their current salary cap (30th in the NFL) on the most important position in sports.
So, is this smart business ... or a signal that Bill Belichick and Co. are waving the white flag in their first season of the post-Tom Brady era?
To ask that question another way: Can NFL teams win without spending big at QB?
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The short answer is a resounding YES. Take a look at the past seven Super Bowl winners and where they ranked that season in positional spending at quarterback, according to OverTheCap.com:
2019 Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes): 24th in NFL
2018 Patriots (Tom Brady): 13th
2017 Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz, Nick Foles): 26th
2016 Patriots (Tom Brady): 18th
2015 Denver Broncos (Peyton Manning): 7th
2014 Patriots (Tom Brady): 13th
2013 Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson): 30th
Since OverTheCap started tracking positional spending, the 2015 Broncos are the only team to win a Super Bowl while finishing in the top 10 in QB spending. Three clubs won it all by leaning on young QBs still on their rookie deals (Wilson, Wentz and Mahomes), while Brady took multiple pay cuts to help the Patriots win three Super Bowl titles.
Even Manning didn't make top dollar in 2015, with a total salary of $19 million. In fact, no team has ever won a Super Bowl while paying their starting QB north of $20 million.
That doesn't bode well for the 17 clubs (Brady's Buccaneers included) shelling out $20 million or more on their quarterback in 2020.
But we might need to tweak our question. Nobody expects the Patriots to compete for a Super Bowl in 2020, and some believe they'll miss the playoffs entirely.
Are they right? How have NFL teams at the bottom of the quarterback-spending barrel fared in recent years?
Below are all the teams that have reached the playoffs (with how far they advanced in parentheses) despite finishing in the bottom five in the NFL in QB spending, per OverTheCap:
2019: Baltimore Ravens (14-2; Divisional Round) and Buffalo Bills (10-6; Wild Card Round)
2018: Kansas City Chiefs (12-4; AFC Championship Game); Dallas Cowboys (10-6; Divisional Round) and Houston Texans (11-5; Wild Card Round)
2016: Oakland Raiders (12-4; Wild Card Round)
2014: Seattle Seahawks (12-4; lost Super Bowl)
2013: Seattle Seahawks (13-3; Super Bowl champions); San Francisco 49ers (12-4; NFC Championship Game) and Cincinnati Bengals (11-5; Wild Card Round)
A total of 10 teams cutting costs at QB have made the playoffs in the last seven years. Four of those teams reached their conference championship game, while the Seahawks won a Super Bowl in 2013 with Wilson on his rookie contract.
Of course, virtually all of these clubs were led by a high-profile QB on their rookie deal. Stidham certainly isn't Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen or even Derek Carr.
But there are two main takeaways here that should be a silver lining for Patriots fans: 1) Spending big at QB doesn't always equate to wins; 2) Saving at the QB position to allocate money elsewhere can equate to wins.