Rams can challenge in NFC West

It's not just creating debate, it's about an abundance of cheap talent

Updated: March 21, 2013, 9:12 PM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider
Daryl RichardsonRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesThe Rams are loaded with young, affordable talent, including rising running back Daryl Richardson.

If you polled evaluators across the NFL and asked them to pick out the league's most talented rosters, you'd end up with results that placed the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers at or near the top. It doesn't take a war room-trained eye to see it, which is why the latest ESPN NFL Power Rankings had those two teams at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, as we wrap up free agency and look toward the draft.

This doesn't just happen because of very good drafting and talent evaluation -- and the Seahawks and 49ers have had plenty of both -- it's also about money.

In a league where the salary cap forces teams to creatively allocate resources and often cut players they'd prefer to keep, what you pay your quarterback drives roster construction. The top five QB cap hits for 2013 (as it stands now) will average about $19.6 million in 2013. That total is more than 15 percent of the NFL cap number, which means that on a per-player basis, those teams will have to pay the rest of a 53-man roster with the remaining 85 percent. In simple terms, if "NFL quarterback" is the most important, deterministic position in sports, paying a good one like an average player allows you to build a deeper, middle-class roster. This is why the offseason has been defined not just by signing QBs, but by making really good QBs financially realistic luxuries. (See: Brady, Tom.) NFL rosters are an oligarchy, but Seattle and San Francisco, with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick at QB, respectively, will take cap hits of slightly more than $2 million total for their starting QBs in 2013. This won't hold true forever -- if Kaepernick and Wilson keep it up, the cash will come -- but in the meantime, it's 100-proof gravy.