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Raiders have most cap space to sign rookies

5/7/2007 - NFL Oakland Raiders

First in the 2007 draft pecking order, the Oakland Raiders, not surprisingly, also lead the NFL in rookie pool allocation dollars, the maximum amount of cap space allocated to teams for signing draft choices and undrafted free agents.

The Raiders not only had the top pick in the draft last month, exercising the selection to grab LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, but also tied for the league lead in total choices with 11.

And the draft daily double also netted Oakland a rookie pool allocation of $6.913 million.

Oakland's rookie pool allocation is nearly 62 percent higher than the leaguewide average of $4.275 million.

The total rookie pool for this year, $136.79 million, is the highest in history and represents an increase of 2.5 percent over the 2006 pool of $133.38 million. Last year's pool increased by 5 percent over the 2005 leaguewide allocation.

Given that the Raiders figure to eventually commit approximately $30 million in guarantees to Russell in his rookie deal, and must sign 10 other draft picks, including four other first-day selections, they needed a large rookie pool. And the Oakland allocation is among the highest in league history.

Last year, Green Bay had the highest rookie pool with $6.647 million.

The rookie pool is essentially a cap within a cap. It represents the maximum each franchise can spend, in terms of total cap dollars, on its first-year players. A team's rookie allocation is part of, not in addition to, its overall spending limit. The salary cap ceiling for 2007 is $109 million, so the Oakland allocation represents 6.3 percent of that.

As of last week, the Raiders had nearly $13 million in available salary cap space, so they should have no problem signing their rookies.

The formula for deriving each team's rookie pool is regarded as Byzantine even by the most astute team officials, and is basically a function of how many overall choices a club makes and where those picks are slotted in each round. Oakland had the initial selection in five of the seven rounds, including three of the first four stanzas, and that positioning high in almost every round also contributed to the team's rich allocation.

The two other teams with rookie pools of $6 million or more were Atlanta ($6.171 million) and Tampa Bay ($6.102 million), and those clubs made 11 and 10 picks, respectively. There are seven franchises that got allocations of $5 million or more. Six of those franchises made eight or more choices in the draft.

Cleveland and San Francisco were the only teams with a pair of first-round choices. The 49ers were allocated $5.420 million and the Browns $5.674 million.

The New York Jets, who made only four picks, received the lowest rookie allocation in the league, at $2.653 million. Only one other team, Denver, which also had four selections, received a rookie pool under $3 million.

A dozen teams received rookie allocations higher than the league average.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.