The Salary Cap Costs and Value Added from the 2024 NFL Draft

With the 2024 NFL Draft in the books we now have a final estimate for rookie costs for each team this year. At the top of the list is the Arizona Cardinals whose draft class should cost the team an average of $25.892 million per year and account for $19.275 million in cap charges this year. The Commanders rank number two with an average of $21.738 million per year and $16.057 million in salary cap charges. At number three are the Bears at $19.315 million and $14.25 million in salary cap charges.

The teams with the cheapest draft class will be the Browns whose class will only average $7.392 million per year and will count for a low of $5.680 million. Detroit also moved a lot of parts and will come in at $9.622 million with $7.362 million counting on the cap this year. The Chiefs round out the bottom three with $10.515 million per year and $8.087 million in cap charges.

Teams will begin signing rookies ASAP but some teams may have to wait to sign their bigger players. The net impact on the cap for the Bucs this year is just $2.9 million but they have next to no cap room. They will open up $1.9 million in cap room on June 2nd, but that wont cover it so look for them to convert some salary to a bonus. The Seahawks will need about $3 million in cap room but only have $1.6 million in space putting them in a position to have to restructure some contracts.  The Giants with $5.8 million in net rookie cap charges are the final team that has to open up cap space to sign all of their rookies. The Bills, Dolphins, and Falcons are the other teams that will be very tight against the cap following rookie signings. In the case of Miami and Buffalo they will open some space on June 2nd. Atlanta likely needs to restructure a contract.

The other angle to look at with the draft is how much value is created in the process which shows how much rookies are underpaid. The Commanders picks project to add the equivalent of $87 million in value per year despite the cost of just $21.7 million per year. Chicago, New England, and Arizona all added over $70 million in value to their teams via the draft.

The other thing that is fun to look at is how teams utilized their picks. What I did was for every position calculate the expected value for the player based on his position and then calculated the expected value for a blind pick. These numbers always skew heavily towards teams that draft a QB so the top team is Chicago with a 74.7% increase over the baseline value. New England, Denver, Atlanta, and Minnesota would be the rest of the top five.

What if we eliminate QB? Then Atlanta goes to the top with a 25.5% increase. They killed it early with the premium positions before going for the low value spots late. Miami and Cleveland did fine with the few picks they had. Denver and Indy wrapped up the top 5.

The worst draft went to the Raiders at 11% under the baseline value. This was driven by going tight end and guard early in the draft and then spending draft capital on safety, running back, and linebacker late. The Packers were at -5.3% with a run on linebackers, safeties, and running backs. When you consider that they got a boost by drafting a QB late, this was every bit as bad as the Raiders. The other teams with below the line numbers were the Texans, Bucs, Panthers, and Lions.  

The following table has the numbers for each team. Clicking the header will sort the data.

TeamPlayersTotal ValueAPY2024 CapProjected ValueBaseline ValueValue AddedValue Added (no QB)