The Rookie Pool

Our "Mystery Salary Cap Guru" (The Artist Formerly Known as Hawkstorian) looks at how the draft and the "Rookie Pool" will affect the Seahawks' 2004 salary cap.

The Seahawks have selected their seven players, so the cap question that will keep popping up is, “How much money do we need to sign these guys?” Here’s where the Rookie Pool comes into play. The Rookie Pool sounds simple, but most folks get it all wrong.

Based on similar signings from 2003, I predict that our Rookie Pool – the total dollars allocated towards signing draft choices and undrafted players – will be about $3.1 million. Our total available salary cap stands at around $5 million, so simple math states that you subtract one from the other, and the leftover is available for veteran players.

Except simple math doesn’t apply. This is the salary cap, remember!

Marcus Tubbs was the 23rd overall choice for the Seahawks. Last year, Rex Grossman was the 22nd overall pick for the Bears, and his first year cap was $1,050,000. If Tubbs signs a similar deal, that total amount will count against the rookie pool, but our total cap won’t go down as much. Consider the “Rule Of 51”. When a new contract enters the team’s top 51 contracts, another deal drops out, resulting (in this case) in a savings of $305,000. Tubbs’ contract would only reduce our total cap by about $750,000.

Most of the other contracts won’t enter our “Top-51” at all, so the only cap impact will be the pro-rated bonuses, since guaranteed dollars always reduce the available cap regardless of their rank in the over-all list.

Using this logic on all seven of our draftees, I’m predicting our $3.1 million rookie pool will only reduce our overall cap by about $1.2 million, leaving around $3.8 million that can be used to pursue other veterans, or extend the contract of existing players.

The only significant roster change the Seahawks have added in the past month is signing Brock Huard to a 1-year $535,000 contract, the minimum for a 5 year veteran. The cap-impact of Huard is only $155,000 due to two breaks we get from the rules. The first is dropping another player of the top-51, saving $305,000. The second is the veteran minimum rule which only counts his deal as if it were for $460,000, an additional $75,000 savings. $535 – $305 – $75 = $150.

This same rule helps even more with veteran punter Tom Rouen, who signed a 1 year $785,000 deal, including a $25,000 bonus (the minimum bonus a player can receive and still get the benefits of this rule). Rouen also only counts as a $460,000, although his bonus steps up the cap hit to $180,000. If the team brings back other guys like Willie Williams or Lamar King, expect the same sorts of deals.

One other interesting tidbit about the off-season has to do with the workout program. Every player is assigned $5,600 that counts against the current cap, which is what he would earn if they participated in the maximum number of days at the team’s complex. According to the rules, that would be fourteen 4-day weeks at $100 per day.

The rub is that very few players actually earn that full amount. Most earn around half that and many earn less than $2,000. Right now, over $300,000 is assigned to workout bonuses and counts against the salary cap. After the off-season programs are over, the league adjusts figures for each player to reflect what they actually earned. The cap is then credited back the difference sometime in the summer. Last year the Seahawks only paid out around $120,000 in workout bonuses, resulting in a credit of around $200,000. What’s strange is, this credit usually won’t appear until after training camp starts and (in theory) all players are signed. Not a big deal for the Seahawks and other teams who have plenty of cap space, but the Raiders currently have less than $100,000 in available cap. Do you think they’d like to have those dollars now instead of later? Yeah, who cares about the Raiders, anyway!

If you have any questions about how the cap works or specific Seahawk players, feel free to contact me at I’ll provide updates on our cap situation throughout the off-season as developments occur. Top Stories