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Packers’ 2018 draft class will only take up $2.9M in salary cap space

Thanks to the Top 51 rule, Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball don’t have to reserve very much room to ensure that they can sign the Packers’ 2018 rookies.

 NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Much discussion takes place each year during the NFL’s free agency period about teams needing to save salary cap space for the upcoming draft class. Under the terms of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the NFLPA, incoming draft picks have well-defined compensation amounts for their respective draft slots. Therefore, the salary cap hit of each pick can be estimated based on these slots.

However, when computing the effect that a team’s draft class will have on its salary cap space in the short term, one must also keep in mind the Top 51 rule, which states that only the 51 players with the highest cap hits count against the cap prior to the end of training camp.

Therefore, if a draft pick’s compensation knocks a lower-compensated player out of the Top 51, the net cap space needed to sign that draft pick is equal to the difference between their cap hits. Furthermore, if a rookie’s cap hit falls below the Top 51 cutoff, he has no net impact on the cap.

The Packers hold 12 draft picks in this year’s draft, including the 14th overall selection, and therefore have a relatively large total cap obligation to their picks. However, the net effect is much lower, as we will calculate below. Cap hit estimates have been obtained from Overthecap.com for this exercise.

The bottom rungs of the Packers’ current top 51 contracts include one player at a $480,000 cap hit (the first-year minimum), eight players at $550,000, and two players at $556,666. However, based on the cap hits of the draft picks, only the bottom seven will be replaced; this is because the bottom five draft picks would then fall below the Top 51 cutoff.

Here’s a look at the numbers:

2018 Packers Rookie Pool

Round Pick Est. Cap Hit Replaces in Top 51 Net Cap Effect
Round Pick Est. Cap Hit Replaces in Top 51 Net Cap Effect
1 14 $ 2,507,504 $ 555,000 $ 1,952,504
2 45 $ 1,140,397 $ 555,000 $ 585,397
3 76 $ 714,103 $ 555,000 $ 159,103
4 101 $ 667,830 $ 555,000 $ 112,830
4 133 (comp) $ 593,591 $ 555,000 $ 38,591
5 138 $ 561,443 $ 555,000 $ 6,443
5 172 (comp) $ 534,630 $ 480,000 $ 54,630
5 174 (comp) $ 534,630 $ -
6 186 $ 520,689 $ -
6 207 (comp) $ 509,732 $ -
7 232 $ 502,456 $ -
7 239 $ 499,421 $ -

All told, the net effect of the rookie pool (the sum of the “net cap effects” of the table above) comes out to $2,909,498. Thus, the Packers need to reserve only about $3 million in cap space for their current draft picks.

That number could increase if the Packers elect to trade up in the draft, however. For example, if the team traded pick 14 and pick 76 to move up to #10 overall — which is almost an even trade based on the classic draft trade value chart — the number would jump by over half a million dollars to $3,454,579.

With the NFLPA’s current report showing that the Packers have about $20.3 million in space after the Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson deals, that leaves the team with essentially $17 million in wiggle room while still being able to sign their rookies.