Updated NFL Rookie Salary Estimates


Today it became known that the NFL and NFLPA agreed to freeze rookie signing bonuses for the third time in three years. Under the 2011 CBA the bonus pool should have risen this year, however I would assume that this side agreement is due to the NFL not reducing bonus money which the CBA equation likely would have done in 2012 and 2013. In general the equation was poorly conceived because the CBA mandated growth in minimum salaries requires somewhere between a 3 and 4% growth in the salary cap just to keep things at the 2011 level. Anything less than this should see bonus money fall. In the future this equation really should be amended to tie bonus money maximums to the increase in the cap rather than salary.

The chart gives four categories to view. The Year One Pool is the cap allocation given to the team in 2014. The Cap Space Required column shows you how much cap space a team needs to set aside for rookies assuming that the team has 51 players under contract and all bottom players count for $420,000 against the salary cap.That is not accurate in all cases as many teams have their 51st player making $495,000 or $570,000 but it should provide a very close approximation.

Signing bonus allocations are the immediate cash that a team will likely need to use to sign their rookies. The total cap estimate is what it will cost the team in cap dollars to keep the players for four years not including the “proven performance escalator” that is available for rookies selected in rounds 3-7.

As of now the team that looks to have the largest rookie pool will be the St Louis Rams with $10.87 million in estimated charges. The next closest team will be the Browns with $9.6 million in expected charges. They are closely followed by the Rams whose rookie class should count for $9.48 million. The Rams will require the most cap space of any team in the NFL with $5.7 million in cap room being required to actually sign their rookies.

Because they traded their first round draft pick the Colts look to have the smallest pool for rookies at $2.549 million. Those five picks will only require $450,000 in cap room to be signed.

The teams that currently will be very close to their salary cap limit to sign their rookies are the Rams, Lions, Steelers, and Panthers. Pittsburgh will pick up the extra cap room on June 1 when LaMarr Woodley is officially moved into the dead money category while the Rams and Panthers may have a few dollars of breathing room. Detroit needs to create around $1.3 million in cap space.

I’ll link the charts on the right side features menu as a permanent feature through the summer. You can view either pick by pick for the entire draft or team breakdowns, like in the chart below. Clicking on a team in the chart will take you to that teams individual draft pick estimates.

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TeamPicksYear One PoolCap Space RequiredSigning Bonus
Total Value