Moneyball NFL: Creating A 2022 Playoff Contender On A Budget

-John Turner

Every season the NFL salary cap goes up by about 7.5 to 12.5% per year. 2022 will be a bit of an exception since the cap actually went down in 2021 due to Covid silly business. This year the NFL is looking to make up for lost revenue in both 2020 and 2021 by going over the $200 million rubicon for the first time in league history at just a tick above $208M. In 2020 the league dropped the cap for the first time ever from $198M in 2019 to $182M. So an increase is coming right on time for some teams that were splitting frog hairs against the cap this season and for some like the Saints projected to be well over it. The purpose of this article is not to show how cheap a team can be but to show that Moneyball can be used and be successful in the NFL. For those that haven’t seen the movie, you are truly missing out on what might actually be the best sports movie ever made. Moneyball(the movie) is a based on a true story event starring Brad Pitt depicting Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane and the 2002 season. Moneyball(the mathematical evaluation of players) was first introduced by baseball writer Bill James starting in 1977 and continued through his writing career before being hired by the Boston Redsox in 2003.

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Much like an early scene in the movie where Jonah Hill is explaining to Brad Pitt that there is a misconception of where wins come from. He then goes on to explain how he believes there are a plethora of players available out there that have been overlooked by scouts crossed the league for a variety of reasons and how putting said combo of misfit toys together could and would equal success. Obviously the object in football is to score more points than the other team, and to do that you need to win a lot of individual matchups. I have identified 53 players that I believe can not only win more matchups than not, but also score more points than the majority of their opponents. Let’s also not forget about the hunger factor. I believe many of these guys have yet been a part of teams that have won a title. When you’re growing up following the game and or playing it for the first time, it’s the only thing you ever dream of doing. From high school, to college, and on to the pros, even guys that are making a premium still want to win… at least the vast majority.

Legends Revealed

So, here we are with a 53 man roster that not only lands under the 2022 salary cap, but also just slightly above the NFL salary floor(minimum a team can pay its full roster) at $197.5M. For clarification I used 45 unrestricted free agents who’s contracts are expiring, one trade for a player currently under contract, and seven draft picks to get to 53, with only one draft day trade. If you’re wondering I used the draft positioning of my personal favorite team, The Washington WhateverTheFuckThey’llBeCalledComeFebruary2nd as the draft slot I decided to go with. They are currently listed as having the 11th pick in round one and so on. So here we are without further ado. Your 2022 Moneyballers!!!

Eagles

Quarterbacks:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Quarterbacks
1Gardner Minshew261Trade673(traded)
2Bailey Zappe230.81DraftNA5
3Cole Kelley240.76DraftNA6

Gardner Minshew is currently my favorite quarterback in professional football so there’s no negotiations here. He costs just under a million bucks, on the last year of his rookie deal, and I’m going all in, building a team running a system he’s already familiar with on that side of the ball. Bailey Zappe is a projected 3rd day guy, if that. He just broke records this fall so its not like he sucks. The problem is that many elitist experts tend to look at strength of schedule way harder than they do body of work. Cole Kelley is a very big, very bad man. 6’7″ and weighing in at 260 and 1/4 pound… this guy IS the Brute Squad. He can throw it to Burma from his knees, short yardage QB sneaks might get ya four yards, and if he has half way athletic wide receivers with hands, he’ll never throw an incompletion.


Ravens

Runningbacks:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Halfbacks
1Marlon Mack263.5UFA76
2James Conner273.5UFA83
3J.D. McKissic293.5UFA78
4Cordarrelle Patterson313.5UFA85
Fullbacks
1Patrick Ricard283.5UFA81

Yeah. Give me the 300 pound fullback and every lost and found tailback you can muster. Mack, you think he’s on a show and prove deal? Conner, already beat cancer and then beat Cardinals opponents for 15 touchdowns in 2021. McKissic is a fine ball player who can catch a lot of balls out of the backfield for you and that’s important in today’s game. Patterson has finally been utilized as the player he should’ve been used for his whole career. Unfortunately many teams out there are just quite frankly afraid of the utility man position. Sure there isn’t a pair of legs under 25 or a single super star among them but that’s not what I need. I need Johnsons as far as the eye can see. That’s what I get with these guys. Five men on a mission from God, 106 miles from Chicago, with a full tank, half a pack of cigarettes, in the dark, and wearing sunglasses. Hit it.

Jets X Factor

Receivers and Tight Ends:

Receivers
1Zach Pascal273.25UFA76
2Adam Humphries292.25UFA74
3Braxton Berrios264.25UFA74
4James Washington263.5UFA73
5Josh Gordon311.75UFA72
6Isaiah Wright241.25UFA65
PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Tight Ends
1Mike Gesicki265.5UFA87
2Mo Ali-Cox283.25UFA75
3O.J. Howard273.25UFA75
4Ian Thomas261.25UFA70

This is where I get laughed off the internet I’m sure. Pascal from Upper fucking Marlboro, Md. My favorite part about him is his blocking. Humphries just caught everything thrown his way in 2021 from Taylor Heinicke, who your mother couldn’t pick out of a lineup of Paul Walker stunt doubles. Berrios, the 5’9″ half Boriqua brother of Miss Universe is just getting started, yet small enough to be overlooked… no pun intended. Washington falls victim to being drafted by a team that drafts hidden talent at the WR position always, and as usual they can’t keep em all. Josh Gordon has fought back so many times I simply cannot love the man. Obviously he loves the game, because if he didn’t he would’ve gone the way of Aldon Smith or Justin Blackmon long, long ago… give me every bit of his heart. As for Wright, Washington could’ve kept him for a million bucks in 2021, but for some reason decided Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, and DeAndre Carter was a better fit. They could’ve had the same results with Wright for about 98% less money, but that’s none of my business. I don’t really need to explain Gesicki do I? Ali-Cox is a solid number two and there’s nothing wrong with that. OJ… I mean he’s been battling adversity since his youth. Right when he thought the starting gig was his he had a minor injury and then shortly after that the TB12 era began, so he’s kinda gotten lost in the shuffle. This would actually give the guy a shot at being a big part of a game plan and rekindle a fire.

SkySports

Offensive Linemen:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Tackles
1Orlando Brown Jr2612.75UFA80
1Morgan Moses315.5UFA74
2Cornelius Lucas313.25UFA71
2Julie’n Davenport272.5UFA63
Guards
1Brandon Scherff3012.75UFA87
1Trai Turner295.5UFA79
2Kyle Long333.25UFA76
2Connor Williams252.5UFA75
Center
1Ben Jones337.5UFA81
2John Michael Schmitz220.76DraftNA5(from trade)

Left tackle, Orlando Brown Jr. That’s all. Brandon Scherff finally get’s his payday after turning down several extensions. Jones is probably not exactly a household name but I’d take him on a two or three year deal in a heartbeat. Moses, Long, and Turner have just enough to solidify some much needed rotation depth. Williams is a very sneaky pickup that’s probably been overshadowed by slightly better talent in Dallas. Lastly I’m one of these weirdos that think Davenport and Schmitz can jump in there in a pinch and be productive as long as they can be coached up. You can’t be all big and bad for no reason can you?

DawgNation

Defensive Linemen:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Edge
1Emmanuel Ogbah287.75UFA83
1Randy Gregory294.5UFA82
2Pernell McPhee332.5UFA73
2Sam Okuayinonu220.74DraftNA7(from trade)
Interior Linemen
1Calais Campbell366.5UFA89
1Jordan Davis224.1DraftNA1
2Maurice Hurst273.25UFA74
2Tim Settle242.75UFA73
3Jaylen Twyman230.85UFA64

So, Jordan Davis is going to be what Campbell was in his prime. Why not learn under the guy? Ogbah signed on to a prove it deal and… proved it. Now at 28 he’s still young enough to get another healthy deal but old enough to make another prove it deal. I’ll bet the latter. Randy Gregory is at a weird crossroad age and his career has been a tad… inconsistent. I’m offering a weird inconsistent contract. Tim Settle is a starter in a 4-3 and on the bench in a 3-4. He gets a hybrid contract for being a part time hybrid player. Hurst, see Settle… your new roommate. Twyman is a kid I love just because he’s from my city. Went home for a barbecue and got shot. Has since been placed on non football injury list by the Vikings and ill assume they waive him this spring or summer. I’ll take my chances on that mid round rookie contract.

On3

Linebackers:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Linebeackers
1Ja’Whaun Bentley265.5UFA80
1Leighton Vander Esch264.5UFA79
1Brandon Smith221.63Draft/Trade upNA2/(4th from trade)
2Jermaine Carter Jr273.25UFA70
2Takkarist McKinley263.25UFA72
2Jonathan Bostic312.5UFA73

Bentley is more like a Caprice. Not built with top speed, but can go through a wall without scratching the paint. Vander Esch is a very good player that for whatever reason just has never been able to put it altogether in Dallas. I’ll take every chip on the shoulder I can get. Brandon Smith is the next Micah Parsons, change my mind. Agent Carter is a solid 6th man so to speak on any front seven. He’s the player that makes one or two great plays a year and is crickets for the rest of it. I’ll have what he’s having. McKinley and Bostic are just football players that didn’t quite make it to the big money but aren’t bad enough to cut, meanwhile can play all three linebacker positions and a little DE if need be.

Pats Pulpit

Secondary:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Corners
1J.C. Jackson2612UFA89
2Kyle Fuller306.25UFA80
3Joe Haden335.5UFA79
4Nick Cross220.74DraftNA7
Safeties
1Terrell Edmunds254.5UFA78
1Bobby McCain293.75UFA76
2Rodney McLeod322.5UFA79
2Troy Apke271.25UFA66

Well, you’ve got three guys, that at different points in their careers were looked at as one of the best man-to-man coverage corners in football. One of them still is, and the other two, having lost a step or three, are still experienced enough to shut em down like Onyx in 1998. Edmunds is my favorite safety in football so go get yer shine box. Bobby Blue Balls is a play maker. Rodney McCleod is one of those guys that just seems to be in the right place at the right time often enough to not only not game plan around him, but he’s seen enough action to make his presence not only valuable for the rest of the secondary, but for the team in general. Cross and Apke are there for the purpose of injuries and special teams. That and they have speed.

Demon Deacons

Special Teams:

PositionPlayerAge2022 Salary(Millions)AquiredMadden RatingDraft Round
Kicker
1Joey Slye260.95UFA72
Punter
1Dom Maggio240.85FA64

I’m not talking about kickers and punters, but here’s the guys I chose. There’s two of them. Enjoy, if you’re in to that sort of thing. And with that… It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.

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Feature photo: Orchestrate Sales