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Signing draft picks won’t have a huge impact on Seahawks cap space

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NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With everything going on both in the United States and around the world, the news Tuesday that the Seattle Seahawks had signed fourth round draft pick Colby Parkinson was some welcome in that it was actually relevant to the team and the upcoming season. The realities of the coronavirus pandemic have made signing rookies more challenging than in seasons past, largely as a result of the fact that physicals are more difficult to complete than in seasons past.

The fact that physicals are more difficult to complete have likely contributed to the fact that many bigger name free agents coming off injury in 2019 remain unsigned, including Jadeveon Clowney, Mike Daniels, Darqueze Dennard and Mychal Kendricks, just to name a few. With so many potentially attractive names still left on the market, one of the concerns some fans have voiced when it comes to the Seahawks signing their draft picks is whether it would impact the team’s ability to add an impact veteran such as Clowney, Everson Griffen, Daniels or any other such player. The answer to that question is that while the team will certainly use cap space when it signs its draft picks, the impact won’t be as huge as some may fear.

To use the contract Parkinson signed as an example, here are the cap hits by year for the four year contract per OverTheCap.com:

2020: $777,610

2021: $947,610

2022: $1,062,610

2023: $1,177,610.

Some fans have looked at numbers like that and then done the simple math that signing eight draft picks to such contracts would seem to carry a cap cost in the neighborhood of $6M or $7M in 2020, and perhaps that space could be better allocated to a veteran.

However, the key to keep in mind when teams across the league sign their draft picks is the Rule of 51. Under the Rule of 51, during the offseason only the 51 largest cap hits on a team’s roster count against that team’s salary cap. Thus, any player whose salary falls into spot 52 or lower effectively has zero impact on the team’s cap for the coming season.

For the Seahawks, prior to Parkinson officially inking his deal with the team, the 51st highest cap hit was $750,000. Thus, when Parkinson’s cap hit of $777,610 is factored in, rather than the contract using $777,610 of cap space, only the net difference between Parkinson’s cap hit and the cap hit it replaced counts against the cap. So, in Parkinson’s case that means that the cap space necessary to add him to the roster is $27,610.

In addition, because all four players taken in the draft after Parkinson, including DeeJay Dallas, Alton Robinson, Freddie Swain and Stephen Sullivan, will have 2020 cap hits below $750,000, their signings will not impact the salary cap for the Seahawks during the offseason.

Thus, as the Hawks are likely to continue to slowly sign additional members of the 2020 draft class, there should be no reason for fans to fret that signing these players will negatively impact the ability of the Hawks to sign an impact free agent over the remainder of the offseason.