After signing Josh Norman, the Redskins go into the draft with about $4.2 million in salary cap space. They will need a chunk of that to pay their draft picks but perhaps not as much as you might think.
Going into tonight’s first round the Redskins have eight picks. They have one in each of the first six rounds and two in the seventh. Thanks to the rookie salary slotting system, we know with a reasonable amount of accuracy what the 2016 cap hit will be for the contracts of each of those players.
Their top pick is the 21st overall. That player will carry a $1.84 million cap hit this year according to Overthecap.com. Here are the cap hits for each of the other picks currently held by the Redskins, rounded to the nearest $1,000.
Round (overall)-Cap hit
The 2016 cap hits for the eight draft picks the Redskins have total $5.8 million. If you subtract that from the $4.2 million available you get a team that looks like it is $1.6 million in the hole.
But you don’t subtract nearly that much from the remaining cap space due to the Rule of 51. That rule applies during the offseason, from the start of the league year in March until Week 1 of the regular season. Teams have to be under the NFL salary cap of $155.27 million during that time, but since they can carry up to 90 players on the roster they can’t count everyone towards the cap. So the rule is that only the top 51 cap hits on the roster count towards cap during the offseason.
That means that when you add a player into the top 51 you drop the player with the lowest cap hit. So when the Redskins sign their first-round draft pick, OLB Desmond Bishop, who has a cap hit of $600,000, will drop out of the top 51, so you subtract his money from the cap total. So that $1.84 million deal counts a net of just $1.24 million.
When the second- and third-round picks are signed, they also will replace players who also have cap numbers of $600,000, making their net cap hits $204,000 and $29,000, respectively.
And when the draftees from the fourth round on sign with cap numbers of less than $600,000, they will be outside of the top 51 so they will not count against the offseason cap number at all.
If you add up the cap hits from the first three rounds, the only draftees who will count anything against the cap, it comes to $3.273 million. But then you subtract out $1.8 million ($600,000 X 3) for the cap hits removed due to the Rule of 51, the net is $1.43 million.
Subtract that from the $4.2 million and you get about $2.8 million in remaining cap space. They can fit their draft picks under the cap pretty easily.
What if they make trades? The net cap hit could go up or down some but when all of the adding and subtracting is done, unless they do something crazy like trade next year’s first-round pick for a second-rounder this year there really won’t be any significant difference. They will still be able to sign their picks and have some money left over.
To be sure, $2.8 million isn’t really enough to get through the season with the possible need to pay players on injured reserve and pay their practice squad. But they have a few moves in their pocket that they can pull out to do that when they need to.