Niners pooling money for rookie class

The 49ers' rookie pool has been determined, and the team sits near the middle of the NFL as far as dollars it can invest in signing its 10-player rookie class this summer.

The rookie pool - basically a salary cap within a salary cap - is the maximum salary-cap value that a team is permitted to invest in its draft choices and undrafted free agents it signs. The salary cap figure is based on the number of choices a team has and where the picks occur in the draft, with some consideration to undrafted rookie free agents.

The Niners' rookie pool is $3.473 million, which ranks the Niners 18th among the league's 32 teams. The pool is included as part of the team's overall spending limit of $71.101 million for the 2002 season.

Entering May, the Niners were more than $5 million under that salary-cap figure, which would give the team plenty of money to sign its rookies and a little left over to perhaps pursue another free agent after June 1.

San Francisco usually waits until the week before training camp to sign its rookies, which gives the Niners a chance to see where the market stands before getting serious in contract negotiations with its rookie class. In recent years, the team has made it a priority to get its rookies signed before camp begins, or at least get its first-round pick - typically the last to sign - in camp before full-squad workouts begin.

The expansion Houston Texans have a rookie pool of $6.35 million to sign their 13 draft picks, which is the highest figure in the NFL. Only two other teams - the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers - have a rookie pool of more than $5 million. The lowest rookie pool in the NFL this year belongs to Miami, which will have only $1.443 million to sign its five picks.





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