Detroit Lions spent $204 million on salaries in 2017, most in the NFL

The Detroit Lions spent nearly 22% more than the salary cap, according to the NFL Players Association.

It hasn't yielded much in the way of results yet, but the Detroit Lions are spending big in their quest to bring a winner to Ford Field.

The Lions spent more than $204 million on player salaries last season, the most in the NFL, according to the NFL Players Association, and some 22 percent more than the $167 million salary cap.

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The Lions' cash outlay was bolstered by two big free-agent signings — offensive lineman Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang got a combined $22.5 million in signing bonuses — and by giving the richest contract in NFL history to quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Stafford's deal, which has since been eclipsed by the extension signed by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, included a $50 million signing bonus, though payment of $16.5 million of it was deferred until earlier this month.

Signing bonuses are prorated for salary cap purposes and spread equally over the life of a contract, which allows teams to spend more money in a season than the cap.


The Carolina Panthers were the only other NFL team to spend more than $184 million on player salaries last season, while the Lions' other NFC North rivals all ranked in the top half of the NFL in spending.

The Lions spent an average of $22.7 million per victory, ahead of the Green Bay Packers ($183.2 million total, $26.2 million per win) and Chicago Bears ($179.2 million total, $35.8 million per win), but behind the division champion Minnesota Vikings ($172.9 million total, $13.3 million per win).

Though the Lions spent more than the cap last year, they still managed to carry over $4.2 million in space that will be added to this season's projected cap of $178 million.

Fourteen teams carried over less money, including the Packers, Atlanta Falcons and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

The Lions, coming off a 9-7 season in which they missed the playoffs, will have about $40 million in cap room this year once they've accounted for their rookie contracts.

They could use $17.5 million of that space to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah.

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Free agency opens in two weeks.

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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