Bears at Bottom of Rookie Allocation Pool

Len Pasquarelli has obtained documents outlining the rookie spending cap for all 32 NFL teams. Denver has the most cash to spend on rookies, while the Bears are at the bottom of the pool.

Denver didn't have the dubious distinction of owning the first overall selection in the NFL draft three months ago, but the Broncos, who finished at 4-12 in 2010, are still No. 1 in terms of both rookie pool allocation and the maximum compensation they can invest in their 2011 freshman class.

According to NFLPA salary documents obtained by The Sports Xchange, the Broncos, out of the playoffs for a fifth straight season in 2010, have a rookie salary pool of $8.118 million and can spend an aggregate of $44.651 million in terms of actual money to sign their first-year players.

The $8.118 million is nearly 7 percent higher than the top rookie allocation from last season, roughly $7.6 million, for the St. Louis Rams. It marks the first time in three years that the top rookie pool allocation has increased.

Denver, which drafted nine players, on Thursday reached agreement with linebacker Von Miller of Texas A&M, the second overall choice in April, on a four-year contract worth about $21 million.

The rookie pool represents the maximum amount that each club can spend, in terms of cap dollars, on its first-year players. The maximum compensation, a new wrinkle added this season by the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement, is the total actual dollars a club can invest in rookies. For example, the four-year contract to which wide receiver A.J. Green agreed with Cincinnati, totals $19,688,100 for the fourth overall pick. That entire amount counts against the Bengals' maximum permissible investment of $39.517 million. But because the signing bonus of $12.82 million is prorated over the four-year term of the contract, the deal counts only $3.579 million in 2011 against the club's rookie pool of $7.18 million.

The formula for arriving at a team's rookie pool allocation is regarded as Byzantine even by some top cap managers, and is essentially a function of how many choices are exercised by a club and where those picks are slotted in each round.

The Chicago Bears, one of four teams who exercised only five choices, have a league-low rookie pool of $3.276 million. Their maximum permissible investment, $18.022 million, is also the lowest in the league.

For the entire league, the aggregate pool allocation is approximately $171 million in salary cap room, nearly a 10 percent bump over 2010. That's nearly three times the pool increase between 2009 and 2010. The maximum rookie investment for the entire league is approximately $935 million.

There was a record 19 teams with rookie allocations of $5 million or more, and four with pool numbers of $7 million or more. There are six teams, four fewer than a year ago, with allocations of less than $4 million.

There were five franchises with 10 or more picks exercised in April, and all received allocations in excess of $5 million. Washington, which had a league-best 12 picks, received an allocation of $6.675 million, its highest in years and seventh-best in the league. Somewhat surprisingly, New Orleans, the only team with two picks in the first round, received a pool of just $4.478 million, 23rd in the league. All four teams with five or fewer selections ranked in the lower quadrant of the NFL in terms of rookie pool allocation.

Here is a top-to-bottom look at the teams in terms of how they rank in rookie pool allocation; the chart also includes the number of selections exercised by each club, and the teams' maximum allowable compensation in first-year players:

Team -- Rookie pool - Draft picks - Maximum compensation

Denver -- $8,118,404 - 9 -- $44,651,223

Buffalo -- $7,801,321 - 9 -- $42,907,265

Cincinnati -- $7,184,941 - 8 -- $39,517,175

Carolina -- $7,173,452 - 8 -- $39,453,935

San Francisco -- $6,935,903 - 10 -- $38,147,464

Arizona -- $6,919,002 - 8 -- $38,054,508

Washington -- $6,675,146 - 12 -- $36,713,300

Tennessee -- $6,255,724 - 9 -- $34,406,482

Minnesota -- $5,990,486 - 10 -- $32,947,673

Philadelphia -- $5,976,719 - 11 -- $32,871,953

New England -- $5,850,438 - 9 -- $32,177,408

Dallas -- $5,785,100 - 8 -- $31,818,050

Houston -- $5,592,988 - 8 -- $30,761,436

Cleveland -- $5,205,958 - 8 -- $28,632,767

Kansas City -- $5,184,520 - 9 -- $28,514,860

Green Bay -- $5,137,856 - 10 -- $28,258,210

St. Louis -- $5,084,065 - 8-- $27,962,359

Atlanta -- $5,052,827 - 6 -- $27,790,548

San Diego -- $5,039,209 - 8 -- $27,715,651

Seattle -- $4,933,606 - 9 --$27,134,831

Tampa Bay -- $4,789,294 - 8 -- $26,341,119

New York Giants -- $4,755,056 - 8 -- $26,152,810

New Orleans -- $4,478,566 - 6 -- $25,182,115

Baltimore -- $4,578,044 - 8 -- $25,179,244

Jacksonville -- $4,100,648 - 5 -- $22,553,566

Detroit -- $4,062,187 - 5 -- $22,342,030

Oakland -- $3,957,552 - 8 -- $21,766,535

Pittsburgh -- $3,984,151 - 7 -- $21,912,833

Miami -- $3,936,568 - 6 -- $21,651,124

Indianapolis -- $3,584,288 - 5 -- $19,713,583

New York Jets -- $3,429,867 - 6 -- $18,864,270

Chicago -- $3,276,825 - 5 -- $18,022,540

Source: NFLPA salary documents


Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.


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