According to the NFLPA, the Redskins have a little under $7 million in salary cap space remaining. They are better off than some teams; seven have less than $5 million left. But with some needs they have yet to fill they are in worse shape than many others as 11 teams have more than twice as much cap space as Washington.
The Redskins are not done adding players. They want to sign some more free agents and seven weeks from today they will start participating in the NFL draft. Their top pick is No. 34 overall and they have their own pick in every round other than the first for a total of six picks.
How much of the remaining cap space will the Redskins need to spend on signing their draft picks? Thanks to the rookie pay scale system and the rule of 51, not much.
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 six picks in the draft. Here is the first-year cap number for each of their picks.
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.So, the Redskins are going to need just about $3.5 million is cap space set aside to sign their draft picks, right? No they won’t, thanks to the rule of 51.
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, Brandon Meriweather just signed a contract that counted $1 million against the 2014 cap. When his contract was added, the contract of Kai Forbath, which carries a cap hit of $570,000 became No. 52 on the list and was removed from the cap calculation. So, signing Meriweather added just $430,000 to the Redskins cap total, his $1 million added into the cap calculation minus Forbath’s $570,000.
The cap numbers for the players drafted in rounds 4 through seven have cap numbers of less than $570,000 so when they sign it will have no effect on the available cap space since their contracts will fall outside of the top 51.
When the third-round pick signs his deal, the Redskins will subtract just $24,534 from their cap space. His $594,534 cap hit will push a player making $570,000 out of the top 51. And the second-rounder will cost $431,209 in cap space ($1,001,209 minus $570,000 for the contract knocked out of the top 51).
So if you add up what the top two picks will cost, as of now the Redskins will have to set aside about $456,000 in cap space to sign their draft picks.
That could change some if they sign some other free agents between now and when they sign their draft picks. If they move around in the draft and get some extra picks or end up with fewer picks, that will change the calculation as well. But the changes will be in the tens of thousands of dollars, almost insignificant when compared to the $133 million salary cap.