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Playing GM: Paying for the Redskins 10 rookie draft picks

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The Redskins need about $1.9m in cap space to sign their 2017 draft picks.

In the excitement of free agency and the draft, fans sometimes forget that a portion of the available cap space is needed to sign the team’s draft picks. Even with the CBA structure, signing rookie draft picks can be expensive, costing several million dollars against the cap.

The “Rookie Pool” is the amount of cap space that the draft picks are likely to eat up post-draft, and it is an important number to be aware of.

OverTheCap estimates the Redskins Rookie Pool at around $7.488 million for the 10 picks the Redskins have in the 2017 draft. The screenshot below shows where that number comes from, with the cost of the Redskins’ ten draft picks estimated to range from $2.098m for the first round pick to $485k for the team’s final pick in the draft.

The salary structures outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) make it possible to estimate these numbers with a fair bit of accuracy.

But the fact is that signing ten new draft picks won’t cost $7 million-plus in salary cap space. It probably won’t cost even half of that amount.

Why not? Again, the answer can be found in the CBA.

During pre-season, each team calculates its salary cap by adding together the salary cap hits of its 51 highest-paid players. For the Redskins, right now, that starts with Kirk Cousins at the top of the list with a cap hit of $23.944m

But it’s the bottom of the list that concerns us right now. We want to focus on the ten lowest paid players on the list of 51 who make up the salary cap calculation.

Here’s the list, according to OverTheCap:

What you’ll notice immediately is that the bottom 10 players in the Redskins list of 51 count for $615,000 each against the salary cap. That makes this a fairly easy exercise.

Right away, we can subtract the 5 draft picks from Rounds 5, 6, 7 since each of them is expected to have a salary cap hit of less than $615,000, meaning they won’t have any impact on the Redskins 51-player off-season salary cap calculation.

These five late-round draft picks have a value of $2.5m on our Rookie Pool estimate that we can subtract right away.

The five early-round draft picks (Round 1 - 4), then, are expected to cost around $4.99 million on the salary cap.

But we’re not done yet! That $4.99m figure is still too high.

Remember the 51-player cutoff in the off-season; each of these high draft picks who get added to the salary cap calculation will push a player off the bottom of the top-51 calculation.

That means that 5 current players — with an impact of $615,000 each — will fall off, creating an offsetting reduction in the salary cap calculation of $3.075 million.

Suddenly, the salary cap impact of signing the draft picks drops ($4.99m - $3.075m) to just over $1.9m!

Here’s the quick re-cap:

10-player Rookie Pool estimate: $7.488m

Adjusted for 5 late-round draft picks costing less than $615k each: $$4.99m

Adjusted for “offset” of 5 players dropping off the 51-player cutoff: $1.9m (approx)

So, because of the mechanisms for calculating salary cap under the CBA, the Redskins can expect to sign their ten selections in the 2017 draft with a net salary cap impact of just under $2m!

At the time that I am writing this article, OTC estimates the team’s available salary cap at $15.925 million.

Even after allowing for the team’s upcoming draft, the Redskins should have around $14m in available space that can be used to sign another free agent or three, or carried into the season and potentially rolled over to increase the Redskins 2018 salary cap.

This should provide plenty of flexibility for the front office to take care of business.