Center remains one of the most underrated positions in the NFL, both by media and team builders. The highest paid center in the league has a cap hit of just $11.6 million this year, the lowest of any starting position outside of fullback. And when we talk about the offensive line, we spend most of the time talking about offensive tackles and pass protection.
But the man who makes it all happen is the center. Not only is the ball literally in his hands every single play, but they’re often the one who is in charge of reading defenses, adjusting protections and making sure the quickest route to the quarterback—up the middle—is closed for business.
The Detroit Lions are fortunate, because their center position is locked up for the future and he’s incredibly cheap for the present (even by center standards).
Frank Ragnow is No. 3 on our list of the top 10 Detroit Lions salary cap bargains of 2020.
Reminder: This list is only based on 2020 cap hits, not the entirety of the contract. Additionally, no 2020 rookies are included in the list, since several remain unsigned.
3. Frank Ragnow
2020 cap hit: $3.2 million
2020 cap hit ranking: 23rd among centers
Ragnow may not have league-wide notoriety yet, but the third-year player looks he may quickly live up to his first-round billing. Last year—his first season back at his more-natural center position—Ragnow looked comfortable and commanding as the snapper for Detroit. He earned a PFF grade of 74.9, good for sixth among all NFL centers. Even better, he was well-rounded as a pass blocker (70.2, 17th) and run blocker (78.2, second).
There’s no reason to believe Ragnow won’t continue on this upward trajectory in 2020. With a year of experience now both at center and under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense, Ragnow should enter his third year with some confidence and perhaps even some leadership among a now very young interior offensive line.
Growth and improvement aren’t guaranteed for young NFL players. Ragnow will have to put in the work and deal with heightened expectations in 2020. He’ll also have to deal with defensive coordinators giving him a little more attention. However, even with the shortened offseason, Ragnow is preparing for battle.
“I’m just trying to work my tail off individually here in Minnesota in my mom’s basement trying to get to be the strongest, toughest guy I can be so we can pound the rock this fall,” Ragnow said in a Zoom conference this offseason. “I’m definitely excited about the weapons we’ve added, and I’m always excited about running the ball.”
If he can help resuscitate the running game in Detroit while maintaining a solid pass protector, Ragnow not only has a chance to be the best value center in the league, but even potentially get to his first Pro Bowl.
Top 10 Detroit Lions salary cap values for 2020:
10. T.J. Hockenson
9. Duron Harmon
8. Desmond Trufant
7. Matt Prater
6. Joe Dahl
5. Da’Shawn Hand
4. Matthew Stafford
3. Frank Ragnow