After years of playing football without a salary, the top picks in the 2016 NFL Draft are set to become instant millionaires. Every player selected in Thursday’s first round will earn a contract worth at least seven figures, and the highest draft picks will make much more than the average NFL player.
Each year’s rookie salaries are largely determined by two factors: the salary cap for the upcoming season and the Rookie Compensation Pool. The 2016 cap is $155.27 million, and the rookie pool is split among the 32 teams. The latest projections at Over The Cap have a little over $5 million available for the 2016 salary of Thursday’s No. 1 pick.
Yearly salaries, including bonuses, can’t increase by more than 25 percent on a player's rookie contract. The minimum salary for a first-year player is $450,000.
Prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, there was no limit to what rookies could make. After being taken first overall by the then-St. Louis Rams in 2010, quarterback Sam Bradford signed a six-year deal worth $78 million, $50 million of which was guaranteed. The current rules limit what rookies can make, allowing first-round picks to sign four-year deals with a team option for a fifth season.
Thursday's No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, doesn’t know exactly what kind of contract he’ll get from the Rams, but he may have a pretty good idea. In 2011, No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton signed a fully guaranteed four-year contract worth $22 million. Last year, Jameis Winston was given a four-year deal worth $25.352 million with $16.7 million in guarantees.
With the salary cap increasing $10 million from the year before, Winston signed a contract worth 13.6 percent more than what No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney received in 2014. Marcus Mariota saw a similar increase compared to the 2014 No. 2 pick, as did the rest of the players in the draft.
The increase in contracts compared to the previous season remained steady, though it declined further down in the first round. Running back Melvin Gordon signed for $10.67 million at the No. 15 slot, giving him 12.3 percent more than what No. 15 pick Ryan Shazier got in 2014. In 2015, No. 20 pick Nelson Agholor saw his slot in the draft get an 11.89 percent raise, while the final pick of the first round, Malcolm Brown, made 11.3 percent more than the No. 32 pick in 2014.
Below is a look at estimated contracts for the 2016 first-round picks, based on the deals signed by draft picks of the previous two years. The projections roughly give a 13 percent increase in salary for picks 1-10, a 12 percent increase for players drafted 11-20, and an 11 percent raise for the rest of the first-round selections.
1) Los Angeles Rams: $28.65 million
2) Philadelphia Eagles: $27.36 million
3) San Diego Chargers: $26.56 million
4) Dallas Cowboys: $25.65 million
5) Jacksonville Jaguars: $23.96 million
6) Baltimore Ravens: $21.02 million
7) San Francisco 49ers: $18.71 million
8) Cleveland Browns: $16.38 million
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $16.26 million
10) New York Giants: $15.62 million
11) Chicago Bears: $14.45 million
12) New Orleans Saints: $13.1 million
13) Miami Dolphins: $12.76 million
14) Oakland Raiders: $12.21 million
15) Tennessee Titans: $11.95 million
16) Detroit Lions: $11.25 million
17) Atlanta Falcons: $11.02 million
18) Indianapolis Colts: $10.73 million
19) Buffalo Bills: $10.56 million
20) New York Jets: $10.5 million
21) Washington Redskins: $10.35 million
22) Houston Texans: $10.21 million
23) Minnesota Vikings: $10.1 million
24) Cincinnati Bengals: $9.88 million
25) Pittsburgh Steelers: $9.68 million
26) Seattle Seahawks: $9.66 million
27) Green Bay Packers: $9.55 million
28) Kansas City Chiefs: $9.49 million
29) New England Patriots: No Pick
30) Arizona Cardinals: $8.79 million
31) Carolina Panthers: $8.55 million
32) Denver Broncos: $8.45 million