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Fun with Numbers: A cost vs. production look at the Bucs wide receivers

(This article was written prior to Week 4.  All stats are current through three weeks of play)

We've all heard that the Bucs haven't spent any money coming into this year.  The fans and media seem to focus on the defensive side of the ball and our lack of spending.  Now, there is no doubt that our defensive production hasn't been stellar and perhaps we can correlate that to the lack of spending.  However, the Bucs did spend a good chunk of change on the offense, particularly the wide receivers coming into this season.  And what do we have for our money?

We're three weeks into the season and our wide receivers have a combined zero touchdown receptions.  Zero.  That's not good.  For full disclosure, Winslow has two receiving TD's, Stevens and Cadillac have one each, that's it.   I'm not sure that this is the production we envisioned when we inked contracts with our top two receivers. Our passing game has to get going, if for nothing else than to take some pressure off the run game. 

This got me thinking, we all know how much Antonio Bryant is getting paid this year due to his franchise tag price, and we know that Clayton scored a big deal in the off season.  Just to recap those numbers, Bryant is scheduled to make $9.89 million this year on his one year deal.  Clayton's deal is harder to analyze, but I'm going of the assumption that he is making approximately $2.07 million this year in salary,  as that's what most reports indicate.  (Note: Bonuses and incentives are not included).  So between these two receivers, we have close to $12 million tied up. 

Let's take a look at their production

Before we get into those two players, allow me to walk you through some other numbers.

The NFL salary cap is currently at $127 million for each club.  Without getting too complicated, there are ways to up that number based on carryovers, likely to be earned incentives, and not likely to be earned incentives.  Bruce Allen had said that the carryovers for the last few years would be spent this off season, though he was not around to spend the riches.  For example, last year's cap was around $116.7 million, but the Saints spent close to $143 million.

This is a quote from Fox Sports on Sept 17, 2009 that illustrates my point.

Tampa Bay's frugality is nothing new. The Bucs have a team cap figure of $144 million — $16 million more than the official league number — because of credits accrued from previous seasons when the club didn't spend to the cap.

So the Bucs are salary can safely be estimated at approx. $114 million (since the Bucs are $30 million under their cap of roughly $144 million.)

What does this have to do with Bryant and Clayton?  You're right, I got off track there.  What I wanted to highlighted is their salary makes just over 10% of the Bucs spent money, 10.49% to be exact.  And what do we have to show for that production?

Well, over a 16 game season, assuming each player plays 16 games, the duo will be paid $747,500 per game.  Here's where it gets tricky.  Their current stats are as follows:

Antonio Bryant - 3 catches for 35 yards in two games.

Michael Clayton - 7 catches for 120 yards in three games. 

This breaks down to per game averages (combined) of 3.83 catches for 57.5 yards per game.  Over a 16 game season, at this pace, the duo would reach a combined total of 61 catches for 920 yards.  I'm obligated to say that not only are we working off a small sample, but we're dealing with an injured (to some degree) Bryant.  But using production to date, it's a pretty abysmal set of figures.

Salary wise that would equate into $195,000 per catch or $13,000 per yard.  Not exactly numbers that scream top dollar.  To explain how I got those, I took their combined salaries of 2009 of $11.96 million and divided it by total projected catches and total projected yards. 

I don't think they will churn out only 61 catches or 920 yards, but that's the pace they are on right now.  To compare to 2008 numbers, Kevin Walter put up 60 catches for 899 yards and Isaac Bruce put up 61 catches for 835 yards.  Their salaries for 2008? Per USA Today, Kevin Walter made $1.3 million last year and Bruce made $4 million (really?).  Again, I'm not saying I predict these low numbers for Bryant and Clayton to continue, but for that combined production, it cost Houston just over $1.3 MM last year and San Fran $4 MM, we're paying close to $12MM.  Different schemes, different roles, different players, I know this, but the production was the same. 

Not an exact science, but take it for what it's worth.