When all was said and done, and the dust had settled on the 2022 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots welcomed 10 new players into the fold. They all still remain unsigned at this point in time, but the rookie wage scale that was introduced by the league in 2011 creates a pretty-straight forward situation as far as contracts and salary cap impact are concerned.
While some negotiation still has to happen before a deal is signed, the framework is already very much in place. As a result of this, we also already have a good understanding of how much money it will eventually cost New England to sign their 10 drafted rookies.
The following list by Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan shows that the team will need roughly $2.64 million in cap space to gets its draft class signed:
There is a noticeable difference between the first two players selected by the Patriots this year — first-round offensive lineman Cole Strange and second-round wide receiver Tyquan Thornton — and the rest of their draft class. Their cap impacts are obviously higher to begin with due to their draft statuses, but the fact that they qualify for Top-51 status also plays a role in this.
What does this mean? For starters, only a team’s 51 most expensive contracts are counted against the salary cap during the offseason. Strange and Thornton are among them.
As the list above shows, the entirety of their contracts will therefore hit New England’s cap once signed. However, their net impact will be significantly lower than the total cap-related value of the deal. The reason behind this is that the two will bump another pair of players from the Top-51 list. Instead of the Patriots’ salary cap space decreasing by a combined $3.51 million, it will only go down $1.72 million because of this.
For comparison, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, and the rest of the drafted rookies are not among the Top-51 cap hits. As a result, only their signing bonus prorations will hit the Patriots’ books — something that is also true for the eight rookie free agents who were brought aboard after the draft.
This will obviously all change once the Top-51 rule expires on roster cutdown day in September; at that point point all 53 active players plus those on injured reserve and the practice squad will be counted. With Top-51 still in place at the moment, however, the Patriots’ draft class will have a comparatively limited impact on the cap.
Nonetheless, the team still has to create some room to fit that aforementioned sum of $2.64 million in. At the moment, after all, New England has only $765,014 in cap space.
This is not necessarily a problem right now, but it means that New England will have to make some adjustments before the start of training camp in late July. Why training camp? Because if the Patriots want their drafted rookies to participate, they need to be signed.
Please make sure to give Miguel Benzan a follow (@patscap) and, if possible, to support his chosen charity: Habitat for Humanity of North Central Connecticut. He is trying to raise $120,000 by the end of the year, and every dollar counts. If you can, please donate here. Thank you.