How will the Redskins pay their draft picks?

How will the Redskins pay their draft picks?
April 10, 2013, 10:15 am
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One of the frequently asked questions I get is asking how, given their current extremely tight salary cap situation, are going to pay their draft picks. The answer is that they will be able to do so quite easily, thanks to the rookie pay scale system and the rule of 51.

Most have become familiar with the draft pick pay system, which came into existence with the 2011 CBA. Rookies are paid according to where they are drafted. It’s not a strict slotting system and there is some negotiation over some terms of the contracts but basically the signing bonus and salaries are set and the contracts are all four years long.

That system both keeps the cost of the contracts relatively low and allows team capologists to know right now how much the rookie deals will cost against the cap for the next four years. The Redskins have seven picks in the draft. Here is the first-year cap number for each of their picks.

 
Pick No.2013 cap hit
51 $732,855
85 $563,252
119 $513,023
154 $451,813
162 $449,125
191 $430,788
228 $418,403
Total $3,559,259

So, they will have to clear over $3.5 million in cap space? That seems like a tall task for a team counting every dollar.

The good news is that they don’t have to clear out nearly that much due to the rule of 51.

From the beginning of the league year (the day free agency starts) through the final cuts before the start of the regular season, only a team’s top 51 cap numbers count against the salary cap. That is how a team is able to carry 90 players on its offseason and training camp roster at a minimum salary of $405,000 and still stay under the cap.

When a team signs a player to a contract with a cap hit that puts it in the top 51 on the team, the player with cap hit number 51 is knocked out off of the cap number.

For example, DeAngelo Hall signed a contract that counted $1.25 million against the 2013 cap. When his contract was added, the contract of Richard Crawford, which carries a cap hit of $496,000 became No. 52 on the list and was removed from the cap calculation. So, the Redskins only had to clear $754,000 of cap space $1,250,000 - $496,000) to fit in Hall’s contract.

As of today, the four lowest cap numbers on the Redskins belong to players with cap hits between $530,500 and $555,000. The bottom five draft picks’ contracts, the picks from No. 119 on down, have cap hits lower than $530,500. Therefore, when those contracts are signed they will no add anything to the offseason cap number. In other words, the Redskins do not need to create any cap room to sign their last five picks.

The top two picks will go into the calculation. They total $1.296 million in 2013 cap hits. When those deals are signed, they will knock the bottom two cap figures off of the cap calculation. If that happened today, a total of $1.085 million would come off of the cap number. So those two contracts would cost a net of $211,000.

The $211,000 represents the total amount that the Redskins would have to clear off of their cap to sign their draft class of 2013 if they were signing those players today.

That amount could change pending other veteran contracts signed or players released between now and when it comes time to sign the players after the draft but the changes would be in the tens of thousands of dollars, fairly insignificant in terms of an NFL salary cap.

Even if the Redskins trade back in the draft to acquire more draft picks and have to sign more players, the rule of 51 will make the cap impact minimal as players drafted from the third round either don’t make it into the top 51 cap numbers or make it just barely making the net effect negligible.

It would be easy to create enough cap space to sign the draft picks. Just as an example, offensive linemen Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood both have salaries of $840,000. When it comes time to start signing the draft picks, the Redskins could decide to move on without one of them. That would subtract $840,000 from the cap and add in the cap number that is currently number 52 on the list, which is $511,000. That is a net savings of $329,000, more than enough to sign the draft class with change left over.

That’s just a hypothetical example, one of a number of relatively minor moves that could be made in order for the Redskins to be able to sign their draft picks. So while making sure that they have sufficient cap space to sign their draft picks is on the team’s to-do list, it is not a matter of great concern.