According to Todd Archer of ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys have been assigned a $9.448 million rookie pool with which to sign their new rookie class. The method for calculating the rookie pool is determined in the CBA and is based on the number, round and position of a team's selection choices in the draft.
Since each pick's salary has been pre-determined, there is not much left to negotiate between a player's agent and the teams. The only items left to negotiate are things like salary splits, potential offset language, the amount of guarantees, possible workout bonuses, and timing of payments. Essentially, signing the rookies is more of an administrative task than anything else, and it can be done fairly quickly.
The Falcons already signed all six of their draft picks last week, and at the time of this writing, 12 of the 31 first-round picks have already signed their contracts. The Cowboys traditionally give themselves a little more time to get these deals done. Here's the sequence of last year's signings:
April 30 - May 2: Draft
May 8: Mark Nzeocha (7th round) and Ryan Russell (5th)
May 14: Geoff Swaim (7th)
May 15: Laurence Gibson (7th)
May 20: Randy Gregory (2nd)
May 26: Chaz Green (3rd)
May 28: Damien Wilson (4th)
June 11: Byron Jones (1st)
All nine Cowboys draft picks will be signed to four-year contracts, only first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott will be signed to a four-year deal that will include a fifth-year club option. That fifth-year option, which the Cowboys have just picked up on Travis Frederick, comes with a salary equal to the average of the 10 highest paid players at the position. The 13 undrafted free agents now under contract have all been signed to three-year deals.
The rookie pool is a cap within the cap, but doesn't have a dollar-for-dollar correlation to the team's overall cap. Effectively, only a fraction of the rookie pool counts against the cap right now. A simple way to calculate the offseason cap space that is being eaten up by your rookie pool is the following formula:
Year One Rookie Pool – ($450,000 x number of draft picks)
For the Cowboys, because of the Rule of 51 and the way the rookie contracts are structured, this year's rookies will only count roughly $5.4 million against the offseason salary cap (Overthecap.com plain the details here). That number fits neatly into the $11.7 million in cap space the Cowboys currently have.
Once the season starts, however, the Rule of 51 is no longer in effect, and the entire cap numbers of the rookies who make the team must fit under the team’s overall cap, and the Cowboys have already said they'll probably restructure another player contract to create more cap space, both for the rookie pool and to have room to maneuver during the season.
Last year, the Cowboys signed their first rookies six days after the draft. In 2014, they signed Ahmad Dixon, Ben Gardner, Terrance Mitchell, and Will Smith five days after the draft. We're now 10 days removed from the 2016 NFL draft, and the odds are the Cowboys will start signing their first picks very soon, perhaps as early as today.
And if the recent past is any indication, they'll start with their late-round picks. So keep an eye out for news about Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, Darius Jackson, or Rico Gathers, some of them will be wearing big smiles very soon.