GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers cruised through contract negotiations with their bottom eight draft picks, and barring some sort of snag in the tightly framed rookie-signing process should have all 11 signed well before the start of training camp.
Given restrictions in how much a team can spend on rookies, draft picks taken after the third round basically sign for the rookie salary cap amount attached to the slot in which they were selected.
The top three might seek a few extra dollars or a more favorable structure than the club is offering since they have a little more leverage, given their likelihood of making the team. But in the end, their cap numbers wind up roughly the same as the slotted amount, so major spats between agent and club are uncommon.
Under the system agreed upon between the NFL and the player’s union, each team receives a rookie cap pool total based on the slot in which their players were selected. The combined cap numbers of all the signed rookies – including undrafted free agents -- cannot exceed that total.
(In addition, teams may not spend more than $103,856 in signing bonuses on undrafted free agents.)
The Packers’ rookie salary pool for their 11 selections is $8,245,687, according to a source with access to NFL salary information.
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So far, the Packers have signed all but their top three selections. Those who are still unsigned are first-round corner Jaire Alexander, second-round corner Josh Jackson and third-round linebacker Oren Burks.
Signed are receiver J’Mon Moore and guard Cole Madison (fourth round); receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and punter J.K. Scott (fifth); receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth); and end James Looney, long snapper Hunter Bradley and linebacker Kendall Donnerson (seventh).
The Packers used up $3,781,361 in cap charges on the eight picks and have more than $4 million for use on the remaining three, as well as the undrafted rookies.
The Packers used the 18th pick on Alexander, the 45th pick on Jackson and the 88th on Burks. Last year, the players taken in those positions, accounted for $3,781,361 in total cap charges.
With more than $4 million available in their rookie pool, the Packers should have some wiggle room to get the top three done.
All picks except the first-rounder must sign four-year deals. The first-rounder signs for five years, but the fifth year is a club option and comes at an inflated cost. The team has until the offseason after the player’s third year to execute the option.
The rookie pool and the salary cap are separate restrictions.
The first governs only over draft picks and undrafted free agents, guaranteeing the 32 teams don’t spend more than what is allotted for rookies per the collective bargaining agreement.
The second governs over all players and requires that teams remain under the $177.2 million league-wide limit. Since only the top 51 players count against the cap during the offseason, not every draft choice is counted against the $177.2 million limit.
The Packers are a little more than $16 million under the salary cap. When they’re finished signing their draft picks, they will be about $13.5 million under.
General manager Brian Gutekunst can choose to use up a sizable chunk of that space on quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ contract extension, which is expected to occur in the coming months. Or he could also save some of the money for potential contract extensions for players whose contracts expire after this year, such as linebacker Clay Matthews, receiver Randall Cobb and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.