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How I would manage the BYU Football Salary Cap

How I would manage the BYU Football Salary Cap

NIL is massive part of college football roster construction. Whether that's a good or bad thing, a fair or unfair thing, or a healthy or unhealthy thing for the sport is up for debate. But what can't be debated is that it matters and it's important.

Head coaches in college football weren't trained for this. In the NFL, salary caps and the financial component of roster construction is embedded into the way teams operate. In college football, teams are learning on the fly. It's tricky. It's an inexact science. But it's cruicial that teams have a clear-cut plan for NIL management.

Over the course of the past few years, Kalani Sitake has believed that every player should get something. BYU and The Royal Blue Collective have put together plans that pay each player based on a variety of different factors. There are players who get more than others, but BYU tries to do things as equitably as possible.

That process might only work for so long, though. The nature of college football, especially at the Big 12 level, is going to challenge BYU to do things differently. Idealistically, every player at BYU should get something and every starter is as important as the next one because this a team sport and locker room cultures matters. Realistically, everyone and their mothers understand that quarterbacks are going to get paid more than the starting tight end. A scarcity of talent exists and funds are finite.

So how the hell should BYU manage the financial side of putting a roster together?

Let's start by taking a peek at Over The Cap's breakdown of NFL rosters to get an idea of where things should go. It's not an exact comparison, of course, because college players are paid like 'veterans' before they ever step foot on campus. But this gives us an idea.

In the 2023, just 11 out of 32 NFL teams spent more cap money on the defensive side of the ball than the offensive side of the ball. Those are 11 teams were:

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Chicago Bears

Seattle Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers

Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

Green Bay Packers

Carolina Panters

There are a couple of things that jump out right off the bat when you look at those teams. 1) Most of them stink. 2) Most of them have quarterbacks on rookie contracts and got lucky. 6 of our list of 11 teams were in the bottom 12 NFL teams in terms of QB spending. How does that happen? You strike gold with Brock Purdy or Jordan Love and you can invest in short-term deals for non-QB positions.

Everyone else - particularly among the true contenders in the NFL - spend more on quarterback that any other positions.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Batimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboyws are ranked 2-5 in QB spending. Only the Tennessee Titans (lol) were ranked higher than them, and they have already moved on from their big ticket QB in Ryan Tannehill in the name of a rookie QB. If you want to win big, you invest in quality QB play. QBs are expensive.

Running backs are the cheapest position on the entire roster. In part, that's because a team only needs a handful of dudes to fill out their roster, where they need to carry 6 or 7 corners. But in terms of salary cap percentage, running backs are the smallest, followed by tight ends.

Defensively, things are lot tighter. The difference between the cheapest defensive group (safety) and the most expensive (edge rushers) isn't a monumental disparity. But, there is still a disparity. Edge rushers, corners and defensive tackles are the prize possessions. Linebackers and safeties are cheaper.

This makes sense because, again, there is a scarcity of talent. It's easier to find a linebacker who can get the job done than it is to find a corner who can lock up Justin Jefferson. So when a corner comes up, you pay for a corner.

You can play around with the OTC graph and metrics for yourelves at the link above. It should give you an idea of how NFL teams are managing their salary cap.

But how should BYU handle this? Let's take what we've learned from the NFL and apply it to college football.

First, we start with a number. Obviously, there is no salary cap in college football. Teams get to spend as much as they can raise. For some, that is upwards of $15 million in a season. For others, that's as little as $1 million or less. For BYU, let's make up a number and say that Kalani Sitake and the Collective have $5 million to spend. How should it be allocated?

Quarterbacks - $1 million

The Chiefs spent 20% on their quarterbacks last year, the majority of that going to Patrick Mahomes, obviously.

For BYU, 20% of their spending should be on the QB. It's up to coaches to decide if that all of it going to one elite player every class and hoping for some injury luck or if they want to spread it between two good players to build some depth. Do you spend $500k on an upperclass player and then $500k on a recruit each class? There are a couple of different flavors, but if I were the General Manager of BYU football, 20% of available funds are ear-marked for one position group.

Offensive Tackles - $650,000

If you take a look at the state of the transfer portal right now, everyone in America is looking for help at the offensive tackle spot. My guy Bud Elliott coincidentally talked about this on X just today.

Elite tackles, short of a few examples following coaches leaving for new jobs, aren't hitting the transfer portal. Why? Because teams value tackles and they are willing to pay for them. They will pay for high school tackles to sit on the bench. They will pay more for starting tackles. Aside from the quarterback spot, there is no more spot more important than offensive tackle. You just can't plug that hole quickly if you are in need of a tackle. You have to invest in that position every year, and you have to keep those investments happy and on track.

BYU has a major opportunity this year. Austin Pay and Aaron Dunn are elite tackles in Utah County.

Pony up, Cougies. Even if they don't live up to the hype, you won't regret having elite tackle talent on the roster at any point ever.

Edge Rushers - $500,000

Teams need to get after the quarterback to make things difficult. Edge rushers don't come easy, and it's not a skill you can easily compensate for if you don't have natural talent at the position.

If you don't believe me, look at BYU's production at the edge position over the last few years. They haven't invested many scholarships into the position, much less money. As a result, they are one of the worst pass rushing teams in the country. That seems to be changing under Jay Hill, but the money needs to follow suit too.

Defensive Tackles - $500,000

It's similar to the edge rushers. You need to be able to stop the run and that's not a skill that can be filled by any warm body. Once again, Hill seems to be fixing this from a recruiting standpoint, but it's imperative that the financial side follow suit. Because if and when BYU does have a big time tackle or two on their roster, they have to continue to keep them happy.

Cornerbacks - $400,000

Keep those corners happy! When you don't have tough corners, you are limited as a defenisve play caller. Strong play on the outside allows you to do a lot of things with your game plan. Corners matter a whole lot. They don't matter as much as much as the defensive line or quarterback, but they matter a whole lot.

Interior Offensive Line - $400,000

They are just as critical as the offensive tackle spot, but they are a little easier to come by. While you would love to have an army of 6-6 guards in the middle of the offensive line, you can get away with 6-4 guards who are mean suckers. There are a ton of undersized interior linemen who are really good college football players. There are tons who are also bad, so evaluations are important, but tons who are good.

Linebackers - $350,000

Linebackers are critical to defensive success, but linebackers are also relatively easy to come by. You can find serviceable linebackers in every recruiting class and in every transfer portal cycle. Because there is a lack of scarcity, you can get away with paying less for quality linebacker. Certainly, elite linebackers make a difference and if you can outbid your opponent, then great. But from a roster construction standpoint, you can skimp a little on linebacker if you're getting better on the edge.

Wide Receivers - $350,000

Everyone wants the next big thing at wide receiver. They earn a ton of fantasy points and they make highlight catches. But there is a dirty little secret in the NFL that doesn't get talked about enough - teams don't win by paying franchise receivers.

Let's take 2023 as an example and look at the biggest spenders at the position.

Tampa Bay Buccaneeers - Do you think they are feeling good about their return on investment?

Jacksonville Jaguars - All those receivers and Trevor Lawrence still struggled.

Las Vegas Raiders - Turns out that as elite as DaVantae Adams is, he doesn't win too. many games when it's Jimmy Garrapolo throwing him the ball.

Denver Broncos - The real question here is... on who? The Broncos were one of the top spending WR teams last year?

Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins had an elite offense with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle catching passes. And it still couldn't get them very fan into the playoffs.

Los Angeles Chargers - At least all of that WR spending got them Jim Harbaugh a few months later.

Washington Commanders - Similar to the Broncos.. on who?

Cleveland Browns - It took Joe Flacco coming off of his couch to resurrect the Browns, not anything that Amari Cooper did or didn't do.

Seattle Seahawks - Nope. Not a very good football team.

Chicago Bears - I'm honestly tired of coming up with captions while we wait for a really good team to show up on this list.

Cincinnati Bengals - Joe Burrow gets hurt and the elite duo of Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins do... that?

Buffalo Bills - Finally. A truly good team. (Except they shipped their high dollar wide receiver out already, but we're taking this as a win and stopping the count.)

Spending on wide receivers doesn't win football games. You win football games with great quarterback play and a strong offensive line. If you have that, you can win games with just decent wide receivers. Frankly, BYU's entire run under LaVell Edwards kind of proves that statement to be true.

Running Backs - $300,000

There are just so many things that have to happen in order for a running game to be effective long before 'a good running back' is brought into the picture. If the line can't block, nobody is gaining yards. If the passing game sucks, those boxes will be stacked.

Everyone wants a good running back, but everyone wants the convenience of DoorDash too. But at the end of the day, it's purely a nice-to-have.

Safeties - $300,000

A good safety can make a difference and win a game for you - someone like Kai Nacua. But walk-on safeties like Crew Wakely and Ethan Slade won't lose you games either. It's another nice-to-have. If you have good ones, you are riding high. But you can rely on development to make a good one because there are so many talented safety prospects in every recruiting cycle. And even if you have a not-so-good one, you can still win football games.

Tight End - $250,000

It's not that a tight end isn't important, it's just that you don't need very many of them. Pay two tight ends $125k each and you'll have two solid options and a solid room.

So there you have it, that's how I would allocate funds. Obviously, the dollar amounts here are made up and for the purposes of example alone. The real point is this - invest in quarterbacks, offensive line, defensive line, and corners. Those positions are hard to recruit, hard to replace, and paramount to success on the field.

In an ideal world, you're getting elite talent at every position. But in a BYU world, you have to prioritize what makes sense. Investing in those position groups the most makes the most sense.

(Disclaimer: We didn't talk about punters or kickers. That's because their NIL value is the value of the scholarship handed to them. For every DOGE coin that makes it big, there are 1,000,000 that simply exist. That's not a slight at kickers and punters, just kind of an NIL reality.)