When a team allows too many sacks in a given season, part of the offseason must address the question: What can we do to improve the offensive line? Spending money is not the be-all, end-all, but it is part of the answer.
Simply put, that teams that spend more on their offensive line group typically see lower sacks allowed totals and increased overall production. The teams that had allowed the most sacks typically increase their OL spending the following year in order to protect their quarterback.
Here are the four teams that allowed the most sacks in 2019, along with the percentage of their cap spent on OL. These teams all spent below the league average of 18.08%.
The Miami Dolphins spent an astonishingly low 5.15% on their offensive line in 2019. It is not surprising that they gave up 58 sacks considering their cap commitment to this group. Based on this data, there is a correlation between the number of sacks allowed and the amount of cap space committed to the OL.
Three of these four teams dedicated more cap dollars to their offensive lines in 2020 – and the results showed. The top three teams from 2019 in sacks allowed made significant jumps in their protection.
The Dolphins increased their offensive line spending by 6.54% and reduced their sacks allowed by 24. This increased spending along with drafting two offensive linemen in the first 40 picks of the 2020 draft helped improve their OL play.
The Panthers increased their cap spending by 5.19% during the 2020 offseason. This aided in their reduction in sacks allowed. Cap dollars were used on the acquisition of Russell Okung as well as the signing of veteran offensive linemen John Miller and Michael Schofield.
The Titans significantly decreased their sacks allowed by expanding their spending on the offensive line by 5.36%. These additional funds allowed them to increase their roster spots from eight in 2019 to as many as 12 different active linemen throughout the 2020 season. These additional players formed contingency options against injuries throughout the year.
The Jets’ spending went down by 2.37%. However, in this case their sacks allowed decreased as well. This was possible because they drafted Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft. They didn’t follow the same trend as other teams, though they showed slight improvement by spending valuable draft capital instead of money.
After the conclusion of the 2020 season, there have been a few teams that are making similar improvements in their OL protection for the 2021 season. This allows us to make predictions for the 2021 season.
The Cincinnati Bengals gave up a total of 48 sacks in 2020. Since then, the Bengals have increased their cap spending by 4.01% for the 2021 season. They signed former Vikings OT Riley Rieff in order to protect their young quarterback. They followed that by drafting three linemen.
The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to rebound from allowing a league-high 65 sacks last year. They have increased their OL spending by 4.87% since the end of the 2020 season. This could be a big bounce back year for the team with the addition of second-round pick Landon Dickerson as well. They could also improve with the help of previously injured players returning.
There is an evident correlation between cap spending on offensive line and sacks allowed. Teams still must spend that money on the right players. It will be interesting to see if teams like the Bengals and Eagles see improved line play as a result of their increased spending.