Under the Cap: Top Ten Guards and Centers

Under the Cap: Top Ten Guards and Centers
Under the Cap: Top Ten Guards and Centers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by J.I. Halsell

As we continue our analysis of the top ten starter contracts at each position, this week we wrap up the offensive side of the ball by analyzing the interior offensive linemen.

Looking at the top ten list below, the first thing that stood out to me was the fact that the lowly St. Louis Rams have a lot of money tied up in their offensive line. Just as rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith is the second highest paid offensive tackle in the game ($10.8 million per year, with $33 million guaranteed), Rams center Jason Brown is the second highest paid interior offensive lineman, after inking an unrestricted free agent contract this past offseason worth $7.5 million per year with $20 million guaranteed. Also cracking the list of top ten interior offensive linemen is Rams guard Jacob Bell, who came to St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent from Tennessee in 2008. Between Smith, Brown, and Bell, the Rams have $66 million tied up in guaranteed money.

In Dallas, not only are Jerry Jones' offensive linemen behemoths physically, but their wallets are pretty hefty as well, as Jones has invested significant money in his offensive line. Four of the five Cowboy starters (Flozell Adams, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, and Andre Gurode) each have contracts that contain at least $10 million in guarantees.

The Dolphins were the only club in last week's analysis of offensive tackles to have a pair of tackles -- Jake Long and Vernon Carey -- in the top ten. Although Dolphin center Jake Grove is not one of the top ten highest paid interior offensive linemen when one factors in guards, he is nonetheless the third highest paid center in the league at $5.9 million per year and with a contract that guarantees him $12 million. The Dolphins, have to deal with this $12 million number on top of the $30 million guarantee of Long and $12 million guarantee of Carey.

During the 2009 offseason, the Eagles made the biggest offensive line splash of free agency with their trade for and subsequent extension of left tackle Jason Peters (the highest paid left tackle in the league at $12.9 million per year); moreover, the Eagles signed lineman Stacy Andrews to a contract that made him one of the highest paid interior offensive linemen in the league at $6.4 million per year. However, the deal can be characterized as a "pay as you go" deal for the Eagles, as the Eagles guaranteed Andrews a significantly lower amount of money -- $7.1 million -- relative to his top ten peers, thereby making a significant amount (82 percent, to be exact) of Andrews' total contract value non-guaranteed.

The next interior offensive lineman to earn a lucrative contract is most likely going to be New England's Logan Mankins. Assuming a CBA extension, Mankins is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009 season and could possibly receive a deal in the $7-8 million per year range. One could make the argument that if a less accomplished Derrick Dockery can get a $7 million per year deal with $17.5 million guaranteed from Buffalo in 2007, then surely Mankins can get at least those numbers in 2010 from a club. It will be interesting to see if Mankins can command at least $4 million per year in guaranteed money, just as Jason Brown and Carolina's left tackle Jordan Gross were able to do in 2009 and the New York Jets' Alan Faneca in 2008.

Here are the top ten starting offensive interior lineman contracts in the league:

Top Ten Starting Guard and Center Contracts (in millions of dollars)
Rank Player Club Age at
Guarantee Guar./
New Money
1 Faneca, Alan NYJ 31 3/3/2008 5 $21.0m $4.2m 52.5% $40.0m $8.0m $24.0m
2 Brown, Jason STL 25 3/2/2009 5 $20.0m $4.0m 53.3% $37.5m $7.5m $24.0m
3 Davis, Leonard DAL 28 3/5/2007 7 $17.8m $2.5m 35.8% $49.6m $7.1m $24.0m
4 Steinbach, Eric CLE 26 3/3/2007 7 $16.0m $2.3m 32.3% $49.5m $7.1m $23.0m
5 Hutchinson, Steve MIN 28 3/13/2006 7 $16.0m $2.3m 32.7% $49.0m $7.0m $23.2m
6 Snee, Chris NYG 26 6/25/2008 6 $17.0m $2.8m 41.2% $41.3m $6.9m $22.4m
7 Dielman, Kris SD 26 3/5/2007 6 $17.0m $2.8m 43.6% $39.0m $6.5m $22.5m
8 Andrews, Stacy PHI 27 2/28/2009 6 $7.1m $1.2m 18.4% $38.5m $6.4m $18.4m
9 Faine, Jeff TB 26 3/1/2008 6 $15.0m $2.5m 40.0% $37.5m $6.3m $20.0m
10 Bell, Jacob STL 27 3/4/2008 6 $13.0m $2.2m 36.1% $36.0m $6.0m $18.0m
10 Wharton, Travelle CAR 26 2/14/2008 6 $12.0m $2.0m 33.3% $36.0m $6.0m $19.0m

Next week, we'll jump over to the defensive side of the ball and analyze the top ten starting defensive end contracts in the league.

Also, if you are interested in learning about the nuances of the salary cap and player contracts, I am facilitating a Salary Cap 101 webinar on Saturday, November 14 at 1pm EST. For more information and to register, visit Salary Cap 101.

Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101


18 comments, Last at 07 Nov 2009, 10:13am

#1 by Temo // Nov 06, 2009 - 11:05am

Four of the five Cowboy starters (Flozell Adams, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, and Andre Gurode) each have contracts that contain at least $10 million in guarantees.

And the best O-lineman so far this year has been Kyle Kosier!

Also, they have two of the best blocking TEs as psuedo-tackles in the game with Witten and Martellus Bennett; the former gets his share of money and they invested a second round pick in the latter. Whatever else they've done with the offense (relying on late-round picks and UDFAs and such), they've never neglected to invest in the blockers upfront.

Points: 0

#12 by Key19 // Nov 06, 2009 - 5:03pm

I think Kosier has definitely played well, but I can't say he's definitely been the best of the five. I think a lot of it has to do with people's expectations of him and also that people are starting to give him a lot more credit than before simply because they hated Corey Procter so much.

Flozell would actually me my MVO-lineman if I had to pick one. He's had a couple average games, but overall he's been stonewalling people. Yes, he gets the occasional penalty now and then, but so does DeMarcus Ware with jumping offsides. I'll take a sack every third game or so from my LT if he also has one false start every other game (which is about his rate for the season). And the trip of Tuck was the best penalty of the year! He not only saved Romo from getting trashed, but he also took Tuck out of the game. I'm not one to root for injuries, but I'm just saying that the Giants without Tuck is a lot better for Dallas than the Giants with him, so the value of that play was enormous.

Points: 0

#16 by justme_cd // Nov 06, 2009 - 10:34pm

I feel the need to say as a fellow cowboys fan that I was unhappy with the penalty. I thought that would have been a good situation to apply a rule that would make Flozell sit as long as Tuck did because of the injury on an illegal play.

Points: 0

#2 by AnonymousA (not verified) // Nov 06, 2009 - 11:31am

Hawking a $30 class on the salary cap, when all you've done is toss some data in an excel sheet? That seems...questionable, at best.

Points: 0

#5 by IanWhetstone // Nov 06, 2009 - 11:46am

I've taken the class. There's a hell of a lot more to it than "tossing some data in an Excel sheet." $30 is a bargain, if you're interested in the subject (or if you're a reporter or writer or even just a fan who wants to have some idea what he's talking about on the subject, for a change).

Points: 0

#10 by IanWhetstone // Nov 06, 2009 - 4:22pm

Ha ha... hey, did you work out your issues with the file formats? Somebody else e-mailed me like two days later with the same problem.

Points: 0

#11 by Jimmy // Nov 06, 2009 - 4:49pm

I threw it over to the microsoft elves. They sent me a list of things to try and none of them worked so they set me up on a share time session where one of the elves tried to fix it themselves. Which didn't work, so they referred it to an engineer elf, who still couldn't fix it. They now seem to have decided that something didn't install correctly when it upgraded to IE8 and are going to try to fix it again on Monday. Watching them on your screen trying everything you have already tried several times yourself and seeing them fail over and over again is actually quite theraputic. I might not be much good at fixing these kind of things but neither are they and they have the cheat sheets. At least it is free but then again they buggered my computer up.

If they ever produce a solution do you want me to let you know what it is in case other lost souls email you searching for answers?

Points: 0

#3 by Gruntled (not verified) // Nov 06, 2009 - 11:36am

I was a little surprised not to see Jeff Saturday on that list, but I don't keep up with contract details.

Points: 0

#4 by IanWhetstone // Nov 06, 2009 - 11:39am

The top-end deals for the interior guys obviously aren't as impressive as the newest benchmarks at OT, but it looks like there's a fair bit more compression toward the top of the market. I mean, there's a much wider disparity between what the top tackles are getting and what the tenth tackle is getting.

I wonder how much the four big guard deals in 2007 played into that (Davis, Steinbach, Dockery, and Dielman). I can't imagine that a guy like Jacob Bell lands $6 million a year otherwise.

Points: 0

#6 by njjetfan12 // Nov 06, 2009 - 12:10pm

With how poorly Faneca's been playing this year, and how assured his decline looks, that deal's going to turn into an albatross for the Jets. On the bright side, if they cut him after next year they won't take a huge cap hit. My real worry is with the amount of money Jason Brown got from the Rams, what kind of contract Nick Mangold is going to want after next season.

Points: 0

#13 by cisforcookie (not verified) // Nov 06, 2009 - 5:34pm

that jason brown contract is nuts, but the kid has basically his whole career ahead of him and has all the physical talent in the world. the crazy thing is that he'll still be young enough, for a center, to sign another fairly sizeable contract when this one starts winding down. If salaries keep going up, he's probably going to make 50-100 million dollars in his career. As a center.

Points: 0

#14 by JDlkjlk (not verified) // Nov 06, 2009 - 6:49pm

I'd also be interested in seeing the bottom 10. It would better allow us to see any correlation between cost and performance.

Points: 0

#17 by IanWhetstone // Nov 06, 2009 - 10:39pm

A list of lowest-paid starters at any position will consist largely of players still on their rookie contracts who were selected around the middle of the first round and later. That's almost always where the best value comes from, and why it's really advantageous to build your roster through the draft.

Points: 0

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