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NFL Draft: Projected Rookie Pool and Effective Cap Cost

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Figuring out how cap space and rookie pools relate is no easy task, but every NFL team should have little to no problem getting their rookie draft picks signed.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals will have nine picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, four of which will be in the top 100.

Though they don't have a high pick in the first round, Cincinnati will still be allocating a large chunk of money to rookies in 2015 if they keep all of their picks. As of now, Over the Cap projects the Bengals to have a rookie pool of $5,840,929 once the draft is over.

That would be the 16th biggest pool of all 32 teams, but it doesn't tell the entire story. Teams aren't immediately on the hook for a cap hit as big as the rookie pool is set at. This is in order to allow teams to draft their players and not immediately be forced to have around $5 million in available cap space.

OTC's Jason Fitzgerald did a nice explanation of it:

During the offseason NFL roster expand to 90 players and only the top 51 players count against the salary cap.  Every rookie that is signed will either replace a player currently in the top 51 or not count enough against the cap to be in the top 51, in which case only their prorated bonus money will count against the cap. This is why it is important to understand the concept of effective cap space.

To illustrate let's look at the Jets. I project that the Jets will have a rookie pool number of $6,046,013 to spend on 6 draft picks. That is a lot of required cap space for a team that just spent like the Jets did in free agency. But when we look at effective cap space it will paint an entirely different picture.

The number 6 pick is projected to count $3,002,182 against the cap. But once he is signed he will bump out the number 51 player on the roster. I currently estimate that player to be IK Enemkpali whose base salary of $510,000 will fall off the cap books once number 6 is signed. That makes the effective cost of pick 6 to be just $2,492,182.  When we do that for every pick in the Jets draft we get the following:

Pick 6 37 70 104 224 225 Totals
Year 1 Cap Charge $3,002,182 $985,153 $602,813 $554,250 $450,933 $450,682 $6,046,013
Replacement Cost $510,000 $435,000 $585,000 $435,000 $435,000 $435,000 $2,835,000
Effective Cap Cost $2,492,182 $550,153 $17,813 $119,250 $15,933 $15,682 $3,211,013

To sum it up, the Bengals will likely need just $1,925,929 to sign all of their rookies this year. Most of the guys drafted after Round 1 are going to be making close to what the guys at the end of the top-51 players list are making.

That's why the Bengals won't need that entire $5+ million in cap space available to get all of their rookies signed this year.