Most NFL fans have the belief that buying into an NFL franchise is a great investment. While various NHL, MLB and NBA teams lose money from season to season, most every NFL team is destined to make a profit every season due to the NFL's unique profit sharing structure. A salary cap with a hard ceiling limiting the percentages of league profits that can be spent on players combined with the massive broadcast TV deals ensure not only the competitive nature of the league stays in tact but also promises each team guaranteed revenues each season.
As with any business, losses can be caused by mismanagement, but in general NFL teams are either owned by a family/corporation that has been part of the NFL for a very long time and has figured out how to make money with the NFL's business model or are owned by a businessman or family that has previously excelled in the business world. The only team to lose money in recent years is the Detroit Lions who posted a $3.5 million loss for the 2012 season. These losses by the Lions were attributed to having the largest payroll for the season, due to large free agent contracts given that year. Even with the rare financial loss in a season an NFL team will quickly recoup those losses in future seasons with the guaranteed NFL revenues.
According to Forbes the value of all the NFL teams combined was approximately $37.44 billion dollars in 2013 ($1.17 billion average per team). As the chart below shows, the earlier you bought in to your franchise or the longer you have owned your team the more value your investment has gained as compared to inflation over the same period. Of course what a team is "valued" by a source like Forbes is often far less than the price for which the team can be sold. This is best proven by the recent auction of the L.A. Clippers that may or may not now go through (see fanshot on this deal vs NFL values HERE). Future additions to each picture like the team gaining a new stadium or, as in the Dolphins case, upcoming stadium upgrades that will bring in additional revenues to the team will also help drive up the value of the franchise.
Although the Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium and surrounding land was all sold to Stephen Ross as a package deal, only the potential revenue brought in by the stadium along with NFL revenues and sponsorships, not the value of the stadium, is figured in to the overall value of the team. Ultimately the true value of the team will be what the team can be sold for and as a package deal the team is worth more today than what was paid just six years ago. To date no NFL team has sold for more than what Ross paid for the Dolphins, with or without adjustments for inflation. The lowest price ever paid for an NFL team was when the Green Bay Packers joined the league in the inaugural season. The Packers joined the league for a franchise fee of $50, or $675.68 in 2014 dollars. Now that's a sound investment!
With NFL TV rights expected to rise from an annual league intake of just under $6 billion a year to just over $17 billion a year, combined with expected rises in sponsorship dollars and, of course, raises in the per ticket price, the value of the NFL franchise will continue to spike at at record pace. The NFL has set a goal of $25 billion in revenues in the next 14 season (by 2027), up from $10 billion for the 2013 season. Part of this formula also includes additional games being broadcast during the week as well as teams in additional markets. All this seems to add up to only one thing, the rich getting richer. Sadly that means we too will most likely be footing a good portion of the bill.
Please note that the sale year on the chart below shows the original date of purchase for the current owner or ownership family who may have handed down the team through the generations following the death of an owner.
|Team||Owner||Sale Year||Sales Price||Adj. for Inflation||Current Value|
|Arizona Cardinals||William Bidwill||1932||$50,000.00||$847,000,000.00||$961,000,000.00|
|Atlanta Falcons||Arthur Blank||2002||$545,000,000.00||$708,712,613.78||$933,000,000.00|
|Baltimore Ravens||Stephen Bisciotti||2004||$600,000,000.00||$742,574,257.43||$1,227,000,000.00|
|Buffalo Bills||Ralph Wilson Trust||1959||$25,000.00||$201,612.90||$870,000,000.00|
|Carolina Panthers||Jerry Richardson||1993||$206,000,000.00||$333,333,333.33||$1,057,000,000.00|
|Chicago Bears||McCaskey Family||1920||$100.00||$1,162.79||$1,252,000,000.00|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Michael Brown||1967||$8,000,000.00||$55,944,055.94||$924,000,000.00|
|Cleveland Browns||Jimmy Haslam||2012||$1,000,000,000.00||$1,018,329,938.90||$1,005,000,000.00|
|Dallas Cowboys||Jerry Jones||1989||$150,000,000.00||$283,018,867.92||$2,300,000,000.00|
|Denver Broncos||Patrick Bowlen||1984||$78,000,000.00||$175,000,000.00||$1,161,000,000.00|
|Detroit Lions||William Clay Ford||1964||$4,000,000.00||$30,075,187.97||$900,000,000.00|
|Green Bay Packers||Green Bay Packers, Inc.||1919||$50.00||$675.68||$1,183,000,000.00|
|Houston Texans||Robert McNair||1999||$700,000,000.00||$981,767,180.93||$1,450,000,000.00|
|Indianapolis Colts||James Irsay||1972||$15,000,000.00||$83,798,882.68||$1,200,000,000.00|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Shahid Khan||2012||$770,000,000.00||$784,114,052.95||$840,000,000.00|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Lamar Hunt Family||1960||$25,000.00||$196.850.39||$1,009,000,000.00|
|Miami Dolphins||Stephen Ross||2008||$1,100,000,000.00||$1,194,353,963.08||$1,074,000,000.00|
|Minnesota Vikings||Zygmunt Wilf||2005||$600,000,000.00||$718,562,874.25||$1,007,000,000.00|
|New England Patriots||Robert Kraft||1994||$172,000,000.00||$271,293,375.39||$1,800,000,000.00|
|New Orleans Saints||Tom Benson||1985||$70,000,000.00||$152,173,913.04||$1,004,000,000.00|
|New York Giants||John Mara/Steve Tisch||1929||$500.00||$6,849.32||$1,550,000,000.00|
|New York Jets||Robert Wood Johnson IV||2000||$635,000,000.00||$861,601,085.48||$1,380,000,000.00|
|Oakland Raiders||Mark Davis||1966||$25,000.00||$179,856.12||$825,000,000.00|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Jeffrey Lurie||1994||$185,000,000.00||$291,798,107.26||$1,314,000,000.00|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Rooney Family||1933||$2,500.00||$44,642.86||$1,118,000,000.00|
|San Diego Chargers||Spanos Family||1984||$70,000,000.00||$157,657,657.66||$949,000,000.00|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jed York||1977||$13,000,000.00||$50,193,050.19||$1,224,000,000.00|
|Seattle Seahawks||Paul Allen||1997||$194,000,000.00||$282,798,833.82||$1,081,000,000.00|
|St. Louis Rams||Stanley Kroenke||2010||$750,000,000.00||$803,858,520.20||$875,000,000.00|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Glazer Family||1995||$192,000,000.00||$294,478,527.61||$1,067,000,000.00|
|Tennessee Titans||Kenneth Adams Jr||1959||$25,000.00||$201,612.90||$1,055,000,000.00|
|Washington Redskins||Daniel Snyder||1999||$750,000,000.00||$1,051,893,408.13||$1,700,000,000.00|