By Paul Wanecski and Mario Granata
The NFL is all about value. Sometimes value is in a player. Sometimes value is in an opportunity to bring in a young, unproven commodity via the draft. Many things go into the business end of structuring an NFL roster, none more important than the dollar it takes to sign, keep or acquire new talent and the NFL draft is the most alluring way to rebuild a roster.
Players drafted in the NFL come with a base four-year contract. The contracts that are offered to players have a slotted value, which is based partially off a Rookie Salary Cap Pool. Since the salary cap is based off the top 51 players contracts on the roster, it is typical that rookies drafted prior to the 3rd round will count against their team’s salary cap, while a player drafted in the 7th round will likely be making league minimum and may not make enough money to count against the top 51 contracts.
Understand the Selection
Drafting the best player available isn’t good enough for most teams. Jostling for draft position is among the most entertaining facets of the draft. Teams look to move up or down in an attempt to get the perfect player at the right price. Selecting a player isn’t just about how much they will cost or whom they are; draft selection can also determine if a future contract option can be available. Players drafted in the first round (this is normally within the first 32 selections, however this year the New England Patriots are forfeiting their first round selection, so only 31 picks are available) come with a team-option for a fifth year. That option must be exercised prior the start of the player’s 4th year and will have a value based on when the player was drafted.
What is this Fifth-Year Option All About?
The First Round is divided into two segments:
-Top 10 selections
-Rest of first round selections 11-31
Top 10 Picks - Top 10 Selections are given a 4 year contract with a 5th year team option, which teams must exercise before that start of the players 4th year. This option allows the team to extend the contract of a player one additional year without the need to transition or franchise tag him. If that option is picked up, the player is paid the average of the top 10 players at his position.
Picks 11-31 - The remaining players selected in the first round have a similar option. The exception is that the 5th year team option pays significantly less. The option year pays them the average salary of the 3rd-25th highest-paid players at their respective positions.
Why is this important? Well, you will see a lot of jostling at the bottom part of the 1st round as teams try and navigate for that extra year of control. For a position like Quarterback, an affordable year financially in an option may be worth the cost to trade up if that player turns into a Franchise Quarterback
(Contract estimates provided by Overthecap.com):
1. Cleveland Browns
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Chicago Bears
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
5. *Tennessee Titans from Los Angeles Rams
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Buffalo Bills
11. New Orleans Saints
12. **Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)
13. Arizona Cardinals
14. ***Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Baltimore Ravens
17. Washington Redskins
18. Tennessee Titans
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Denver Broncos
21. Detroit Lions
22. Miami Dolphins
23. New York Giants
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Houston Texans
26. Seattle Seahawks
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Dallas Cowboys
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
31. Atlanta Falcons
32. ****New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)
*Pick 6 belongs to Tennessee, but link is to On the Clock: 2017 LA Rams
**Pick 12 belongs to Cleveland, but link is to On the Clock: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles
***Pick 14 belongs to Philadelphia, but link is to On the Clock: 2017 Minnesota Vikings
****Pick 32 belongs to New Orleans, but link is to On the Clock: 2017 New England Patriots
If you are looking for the full contract estimates for the 2017 NFL Draft, use this link to view what overthecap.com has to offer on that.