Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shedding Light On Rookie Salaries and Salary Cap

"Bears have signed all draft picks already. Steelers won't be following suit. With only 300K under cap, they have to wait until after June 1" - Pittsburgh Tribune Review's Mark Kaboly

When I read that, I figured that it was time to delve into the rookie contracts and how they will affect the Steelers overall Salary Cap. 

After the NFL Draft, the website released the contract estimates for what each team would be paying its draft picks. The Steelers will be looking at approximately $3.78 million in base salary, $5.89 million against the 2014 Cap and $8.43 million in signing bonuses. Here is their complete breakdown per player and contract year. -

To be completely lucid regarding rookie monies, though, the Rookie Cap is not a separate pool. Actually, it is a separate calculation with no dollar-for-dollar correlation between the Rookie Cap and the overall Salary Cap. That being the case, rarely will rookie salaries, in the new 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, impact the team’s overall Cap.

This needs to be remembered because of the Rule of 51 taking precedent in the offseason. It has to, or else offseason rosters, which balloon to 90 players and include several new contracts, would cause teams to violate the Salary Cap regularly. 

So, simply put, the top 51 Cap numbers, all of the shares of bonus money for the players outside of the top 51 via displacement and all dead money amounts count toward the team’s overall Cap. 

Also per the CBA, the individual bonus amounts received by the rookies is prorated over the four years of their rookie deal and that prorated amount is added to the base salary to create the player’s Cap number. For a further breakdown of the NFL rookie pool and its impact on the Cap, I refer you once again to Over The Cap. -

What does all of this mean for the Steelers rookies? As Mark Kaboly alluded to above, the earliest any will be signed is June 2 when linebacker LaMarr Woodley's release hits the books and frees up around $8 million in cap space. Ryan Shazier and the others will likely sign just prior to the start of training camp. 

Speaking of Shazier and to quote Kaboly again, “Steelers 15th pick Ryan Shazier's deal will be 4 years for around $9.5 million with a $5.2 million signing bonus.” It will likely come with an approximate $1.7 million signing bonus also. Over The Cap, as the link showed earlier, backs up this estimate. 

In reference to the four years mentioned twice in the past three paragraphs, the NFL and NFLPA came to an agree upon adjustment to rookie contracts. 

"Specifically, the two sides have agreed that, once a player is drafted, he will automatically be deemed to have received an offer for a four-year contract at the minimum salary for each season. Previously, the team was required to provide written notice of the tender offer before or immediately after the draft." - 

Well, that's the drafted rookies, now what about the UDFAS? They'll cash in on this, right? 

Per Pro Football Talk, to sign undrafted free agents, teams have up to $80,362 each for signing bonuses - a total amount per team, not per player. That's about $8,900 per UDFA for the Steelers. For the rival Baltimore Ravens, though, it's only about $4,700 for each of the 17 UDFAs they signed.