rWith Brian McFarland’s @Ravenssalarycap permission I am using his fine work at
as a template for this blog post.
Soon after the 2015 NFL draft is completed, the league will announce each teamâ€™s â€śYear One Rookie Allocationâ€ť (formerly known as the â€śRookie Poolâ€ť or â€śRookie Salary Capâ€ť). This is an oft misunderstood number, because while it is part of the teamâ€™s Salary Cap, it does not have a dollar-for-dollar impact on the teamâ€™s overall Salary Cap.
The Rookie Salary Cap is often referred to as â€śa cap within a capâ€ť because it limits the amount that teams can allocate to their rookies in the year they were drafted (and over the life of the rookiesâ€™ contracts). But, beyond that, there is a lot of confusion about the Rookie Salary Cap and exactly how it works. Even some in the media do not fully understand the mechanics of it. Some have been heard to say that itâ€™s a totally separate pool of money that is not included in the teamâ€™s overall Cap. Others think the entire amount of the Rookie Cap is included in the teamâ€™s overall Cap, meaning that teams will need that much overall Cap space to sign their rookies.
Both of those characterizations are incorrect.
The Rookie Cap is not a separate, distinct pool, but rather, a separate calculation and there is not a dollar-for-dollar correlation between the Rookie Cap and the overall Cap. So, while all of the Salary Cap numbers of a teamâ€™s draft picks must fit under the teamâ€™s Rookie Salary Cap, very rarely will all of that amount actually impact the teamâ€™s overall Salary Cap.
The reason for these misconceptions revolves around the Rule of 51, which is contained in Article 13 of the NFLâ€™s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Rule of 51 dictates that, from the beginning of the league year in early March until the beginning of the season, only the top 51 Salary Cap numbers and all of the pro-rata shares of bonus money for the players outside of the top 51 count toward the teamâ€™s overall Cap. All â€śdead money,â€ť i.e. amounts that count against the Salary Cap for players who are no longer on the roster, counts as well.
Said a simpler way, during this period of the offseason, a teamâ€™s Rule of 51 Salary Cap number can be calculated by removing the base salaries of all players who do not fall amongst the top 51 Cap numbers.
This rule is necessary because, during the offseason, team rosters can number up to 90 players. As such, it would be impossible for teams to fit all of those players under the Cap. So, to counter this problem, the NFL has instituted the Rule of 51.
So, by way of example, there is a seven-way tie for Patriotsâ€™s 51st highest Cap number at $585,000. Chris Jones, Jake Bequette, Darius Fleming, Josh Kline, Dion Lewis, Joe Vellano, and Tim Wright all have salaries of $585,000. The 58th highest Cap number (Zach Moore) is $535,550. Because the â€ś58thâ€ť highest Cap number doesnâ€™t count against the Cap, Zach Mooreâ€™s base salary of $510,000 is not currently counting against the Patriots salary cap but his $25,550 in signing bonus proration does. This treatment also applies to all other players who are outside the teamâ€™s top 51 â€“ the playerâ€™s base salary will not count but signing bonus prorations and offseason workout bonuses will.
OK, so what does this have to do with how the Rookie Cap works?
First, as way of further explanation, under the CBA of 2011, all draft picks receive 4-year contracts, generally with a signing bonus and often with minimum base salaries set for each year of the deal. While 1st and 2nd round picks may have base salaries of more than the minimum in years two through four of their deals, even those players will almost always receive the rookie minimum base salary during their first year. For 2015, the minimum base salary for a rookie is $435,000. For Salary Cap purposes, the bonus received by the player is prorated over the four years of the deal and that prorated amount is added to the base salary to create the playerâ€™s Cap number.
So, because of the low base salary and the small signing bonuses that many of the lower round draft picks receive, those draft picks will not be amongst the top 51 Cap numbers on the Patriots (Patriots already have 75 signed or tendered players). As such, under the Rule of 51, those playersâ€™ base salaries of $435,000 will not count against the teams overall Salary Cap and only the playerâ€™s bonus proration will count toward the teamâ€™s overall Cap.
So, how will this affect the Patriots in 2015?
As we know, the Patriots are set to have nine (9 draft picks in next weekâ€™s draft. As we also know, itâ€™s highly unlikely that the Patriots will end up using those exact 8 picks. Whether they trade up or down, the Patriots are likely to move all over the draft board and itâ€™s anyone guess which picks they will actually use.
However, for the purposes of this illustration, weâ€™ll base our example on the present 9 picks.
With the new CBAâ€™s rookie wage scale, the compensation for draft picks is now basically slotted, so based on the current 9 draft picks, the Patriots would likely have a Rookie Cap number of $5,482,042
Those Cap numbers would breakdown as follows:
1st round (#32): $1,260,364
2nd round (#64): $643,533
3rd round (#96): $563,750
3rd round (#97 – compensatory selection – Aqib Talib) : $561,504
4th round (#101 – from Buccaneers – part of Logan Mankins trade): $556,500
4th round (#131): $531,413
6th round (#178 – from Buccaneers – part of Jonathan Casillas trade): $466,279
7th round (#219 – from Titans – part of Akeem Ayers trade): $452,225
7th round (#253 – compensatory selection – Dane Fletcher): $446,474
Presently, the Patriots â€™ bottom 5 Rule of 51 Cap numbers are:
47: Antonio Johnson $595,000 ($585K base salary + 10,000 offseason workout bonus)
48: Eric Martin $595,000 ($585K base salary + 10,000 offseason workout bonus)
49: Ryan Allen $585,500 ($585K base salary + 500 signing bonus proration)
50:Â Cameron Fleming $585,146 ($510K base salary + $75,146 signing bonus proration)
51: Chris Jones $585,000 ($585K base salary + noÂ bonuses)
Again, the team will need to fit all 9 of the draft picks into its $5.482M Rookie Cap, but will not need $5.482M in overall Cap space to accommodate the signing of its draft picks.
So, based on the above numbers, only the first two (2) picks will have Cap numbersÂ greater than Cameron Fleming’s $585,146, which is the Patriotsâ€™ 50th highest Cap number. As such, only those two will be part of the top 51 and, under the Rule of 51, will replace Cameron Fleming and Chris JonesÂ who are currentlyÂ 50th and 51st on the teamâ€™s Cap. Only Cameron Fleming ‘s $75,146 signingÂ bonus proration will remain to count against the Salary Cap.
The Cap numbers of the remaining seven (7) draft picks will fall outside of the top 51, so the base salaries of those players, while counting against the Rookie Cap, will not count against the teamâ€™s overall Salary Cap. Only the signing bonus prorations for those players will count.
So, to calculate the exact impact of the Rookie Cap on the teamâ€™s overall Cap, the amount of the base salaries â€“ $435K â€“ for each of the lower 7 draft picks ($3.045M) can be deducted from the overall number of $5,482,042. Then, for the top two draft picks, while their Cap numbers do count against the overall Cap (by virtue of being part of the top 51 Cap numbers), they replace Cameron Fleming and Chris JonesÂ soÂ $585K of the duo’s cap numbersÂ will be deducted from the teamâ€™s overall Cap.
When those three numbers ($3.045M, $585KÂ and $585K) are deducted from the teamâ€™s Rookie Cap ($5,482,042), the true impact of the signing of the teamâ€™s rookies â€“ $1,276,042 â€“ is revealed.
So, that is how the Year One Rookie Allocation, a.k.a Rookie Salary Cap â€“ the â€ścap within a capâ€ť â€“ actually works and demonstrates the actual impact of the Rookie Cap on the teamâ€™s overall Salary Cap and how it is fair less than most realize.
|Slot||Salary||Prorated Signing Bonus||July 1 Cap HitÂ||September 10 Cap HitÂ|
|Player 51 (Chris Jones) on the Patriots currently has a cap number of $585,000|
|NOTE: Picks 97 and 253 cannot be traded since they are compensatory picks|
And, despite what some in the media may lead you to believe, that number wonâ€™t be anywhere near what the teamâ€™s Rookie Cap is reported to be.
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