Bucs saved millions on Hargreaves by trading down
On the surface, the Bucs' trade with the Bears on Thursday night -- sliding down from No. 9 to No. 11 and picking up a fourth-round pick -- seems like a minor move, gaining a bonus pick while still getting the player they would have taken originally in Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
But from a financial (and thus salary cap) standpoint, the Bucs have already saved about $1.6-million in what they will pay Hargreaves, and by the time his rookie contract is done, they may save about $4-million more.
NFL rookie salaries are essentially slotted to a player's draft position, and according to salary-cap site Spotrac.com, Hargreaves' rookie salary with the Bucs should be about $14.2-million for four years, instead of $15.8-million had he gone at No. 9. There's an immediate savings of about $1.2-million just in the considerable signing bonus rookies get before they've played a snap -- he'll get about $8.5-million, instead of the $9.7-million bonus he would have gotten at No. 9.
The real savings could come in 2020, when the Bucs have the right to keep Hargreaves with a fifth-year option, as teams do with all first-round picks. That option is calculated based on a player's position and where he was drafted, and there's a major difference between the fifth-year option for a top-10 pick and that for someone drafted from No. 11 on.
Here's the fine print: top-10 picks' fifth-year options are equal to the average of the top 10 players at your position -- for corners whose options were in 2016, for instance, that would cost a team $11-million for the fifth year. But fifth-year options for players drafted between 11 and 32, it's calculated by the average of the third- through 25th-highest players at the position -- much less, or about $7.5-million for 2016 options. That's a difference of $3.5-million -- and the gap should only be more four years from now.
Adding a fourth-round pick in itself is a great benefit in a deal that allows you to take the player you were already taking, but by knowing the details of NFL contracts, the Bucs could be able to save $5-million or more on Hargreaves' rookie contract.