First in the draft pecking order by virtue of its 1-15 record in 2009, St. Louis received the largest rookie pool this year, nearly $7.6 million, ESPN.com has learned from documents it obtained this week. In addition to owning the first overall choice, the Rams also were one of only five franchises to exercise 10 or more choices. That daily double combined to afford the Rams, who selected 11 prospects, the highest rookie pool number.
The Rams' rookie allocation is roughly $500,000 less than the $8 million-plus bounty the Detroit Lions received last year, in part for owning the No. 1 selection. But the total rookie pool for the entire NFL, $155.993 million, represents a bump of nearly 3.5 percent from the aggregate allocation for the 2009 class.
Tampa Bay and Seattle, which had nine picks each, were the only other franchises with rookie pools in excess of $7 million. Philadelphia exercised the most choices, 13, and received an allocation of $6.977 million, fourth highest in the league.
Last year's top choice, quarterback Matthew Stafford, received a six-year contract with a maximum value of $78 million, with $41.7 million of that guaranteed. Sam Bradford, who was said to be very impressive at last week's three-day minicamp for the Rams, is represented by the same agent who negotiated Stafford's deal, Tom Condon of CAA.
This marks the second straight year in which the top rookie pool allocation in the league decreased. Two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs received a record $8.22 million rookie allocation.
Even without a salary cap in place for the 2010 season, there is a rookie allocation to which all 32 franchises must adhere. But this could be the final year for the rookie pool in its current state. The NFL and NFL Players Association are expected to make a rookie wage scale an element of the next extension to the collective bargaining agreement.
The rookie pool represents the maximum amount that each club can spend, in terms of total cap dollars, on its first-year players. For undrafted free agents, only the prorated share of their signing bonus, not minimum base salaries, count against the rookie pool. The formula for arriving at each team's rookie allocation is regarded as Byzantine even by some cap managers and is a function of how many picks are exercised by a team and where those choices are slotted in each round.
A record 13 teams received allocations of $5 million or more this year. Ten clubs, one more than a year ago, were allocated less than $4 million. The Chicago Bears, who did not have a choice in the first two rounds because of previous trades, and who chose only five players in all, had the lowest rookie pool, $2.003 million. The New York Jets, who had a league-low four selections, were the only other franchise under $3 million.
There were eight franchises that used six choices or fewer, and six of those teams ranked in the bottom 10 in rookie allocation. Conversely, four teams exercised two picks each in the first round, and all ranked in the top 11 allocations.