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Signing the rookies

Yesterday we briefly discussed LaRon Landry's potential contract, which would impact the cap hit we take in 2007. The two definitive sources on Redskins Cap Related Issues are PC and Warpath and I derive my figures from them.

PC was updated six days ago and has our remaining cap space for the 2007 year at just over 5M. That does not count in recent signings, though those players (Zach Hilton, Blaylock, etc.) may not count against our cap significantly if they barely manage to break the Top 51 (a team's salary cap only includes the highest 51 paid players on the team).

What we found with Landry was that, based on recent history, he is set to make over 4M per year over the course of a contract with at least 15M guaranteed. This is based of Vernon Davis' (5-year, 23M dollar contract with 15M and change guaranteed) and Michael Huff's (5-year 22.5M dollar contract with 15M guaranteed) deals from last year's draft. Both were selected early in the first round in a similar spot to Landry. Presume that he'll make some variation of those contracts plus a little given the increased size of the Salary Cap this year (from 102M to around 109M).

There is one additional issue. "Guaranteed" money doesn't necessarily mean Signing Bonuses (SB). There is the nebulous entity of "Other Bonus" which includes, I believe, roster bonuses. As Adam Archuleta proved last year, some "guaranteed" money ends up being paid out in discordant amounts throughout a contract. A 2008 5M roster bonus that is guaranteed through contractual wizzardy can turn into a 1M bonus paid in 2009 and a 4M bonus paid in 2010, as an example. So even if Landry is going to get 15+M in guaranteed moneys on his contract, there is no guarantee that it will get paid out in equi-sized chunks prorated over the course of his contract.

Still, I think history tells us that the majority or all of Landry's guaranteed money is prorated over 5 years (the max allowed by the new CBA, I believe). For instance, Sean Taylor (safety signed early in the 1st round) didn't have fluctuating payments over the course of his contract. Rather his ~11.5M SB simply prorated, costing us over 2M a year. Same deal with Carlos Rogers (9M at ~1.8M per year) and Jason Campbell (~4M at over 1M a year).

If we're honest about what Landry is going to receive in Signing Bonuses, it will likely be over 15M as that is last year's price for a player selected at #6. 16-18M isn't unthinkable. We will not presume cap trickery with guaranteed roster bonuses that rear their heads later on, so Hogs Haven assumes, at best, 16-18M prorated over 5 years. I place his 1st year cap hit at around 3.5M (3.2-3.6M in prorated bonus + his salary, which shouldn't be much more than league minimum).

Barring other cuts, that leaves us around 1.5M to sign Dallas Sartz, The Ham Burglar, Jordan Palmer, and Tyler Ecker (and all the other scrubs we bring in) as well as Injury Insurance moneys. Do we have enough?

Anthony Montgomery from last year operates as our metric for Sartz, as both were selected in the 5th round. He signed a 3-year 1.2M deal with a 123K signing bonus. With his ~300K base salary he cost us less than 400K his first year. We can get Dallas Sartz for (not much) more, granting for salary cap inflation and that Sartz was taken earlier than Montgomery was.

Kedric Golston is a fine example for both Palmer and The Ham Burglar as he was taken in the 6th round. His contract was nearly identical to Montgomery's except his signing bonus was cut in half. So, again, he cost less than 400K his first year here. Palmer and Ham Burglar project similarly.Tyler Ecker is below them, but cannot fall lower than the Rookie League Minimum salary of 285K.

So you've got all four of our 2nd day rookies for under 400K, a nice round 1.6M we'll say. Added to Landry and that's around 5M which gives us very little in injury insurance. However, remember that only the highest paid 51 players on the roster are counted against the salary cap. As of 6 days ago, the person at the bottom of the list was Shaun Suisham, costing us a cool 442K against the 2007 cap. If all our rookies remain on the roster and cost us less than 400K, then they won't actually cost us anything against our current 2007 salary cap at all. Even if they sneak into our 51 paid guys, they presumably replace people who were costing the team, at a minimum, more than 400K. Thus, if our late round rookies actually make the team, at worst they cost us nothing and at best they take the salary cap penalty spot of someone who cost us more money anyways, therefore they save us cap space.

So when you hear someone say "how are we going to sign all our draft picks with so little money" what they are really saying is "how are we going to sign our early round picks?" Late round draft picks cost peanuts.