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2010 Rookie Pool money and other NFL notes from Len Pasquarelli

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[size="5"][b]Tip Sheet notes: Rams get top share[/b][/size]
By Len Pasquarelli

Archive First in the draft pecking order by virtue of its 1-15 record in 2009, St. Louis received the largest rookie pool this year, nearly $7.6 million, ESPN.com has learned from documents it obtained this week. In addition to owning the first overall choice, the Rams also were one of only five franchises to exercise 10 or more choices. That daily double combined to afford the Rams, who selected 11 prospects, the highest rookie pool number.

The Rams' rookie allocation is roughly $500,000 less than the $8 million-plus bounty the Detroit Lions received last year, in part for owning the No. 1 selection. But the total rookie pool for the entire NFL, $155.993 million, represents a bump of nearly 3.5 percent from the aggregate allocation for the 2009 class.

Tampa Bay and Seattle, which had nine picks each, were the only other franchises with rookie pools in excess of $7 million. Philadelphia exercised the most choices, 13, and received an allocation of $6.977 million, fourth highest in the league.

Last year's top choice, quarterback Matthew Stafford, received a six-year contract with a maximum value of $78 million, with $41.7 million of that guaranteed. Sam Bradford, who was said to be very impressive at last week's three-day minicamp for the Rams, is represented by the same agent who negotiated Stafford's deal, Tom Condon of CAA.

Rookie Pool
Even without a salary cap for the 2010 season, the rookie pool remains in existence. The pool is the maximum in cap space a franchise can spend on its draft choices and undrafted free agents. Here are the team-by-team amounts for 2010:

Team Picks Pool (millions)
Rams 11 $7.596
Buccaneers 9 $7.137
Seahawks 9 $7.057
Eagles 13 $6.976
Patriots 12 $6.278
Lions 6 $6.035
Chiefs 7 $6.007
49ers 8 $5.979
Browns 8 $5.878
Raiders 9 $5.854
Broncos 9 $5.798
Bills 9 $5.657
Steelers 10 $5.198
[b]Bengals 9 $4.889 [/b]
Texans 9 $4.800
Redskins 6 $4.709
Titans 9 $4.683
Dolphins 8 $4.472
Giants 7 $4.335
Panthers 10 $4.190
Colts 8 $4.121
Cardinals 7 $4.010
Jaguars 6 $3.954
Falcons 7 $3.930
Packers 7 $3.863
Chargers 6 $3.821
Vikings 8 $3.787
Saints 6 $3.446
Ravens 7 $3.438
Cowboys 6 $3.417
Jets 4 $2.660
Bears 5 $2.003

This marks the second straight year in which the top rookie pool allocation in the league decreased. Two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs received a record $8.22 million rookie allocation.

Even without a salary cap in place for the 2010 season, there is a rookie allocation to which all 32 franchises must adhere. But this could be the final year for the rookie pool in its current state. The NFL and NFL Players Association are expected to make a rookie wage scale an element of the next extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

The rookie pool represents the maximum amount that each club can spend, in terms of total cap dollars, on its first-year players. For undrafted free agents, only the prorated share of their signing bonus, not minimum base salaries, count against the rookie pool. The formula for arriving at each team's rookie allocation is regarded as Byzantine even by some cap managers and is a function of how many picks are exercised by a team and where those choices are slotted in each round.

A record 13 teams received allocations of $5 million or more this year. Ten clubs, one more than a year ago, were allocated less than $4 million. The Chicago Bears, who did not have a choice in the first two rounds because of previous trades, and who chose only five players in all, had the lowest rookie pool, $2.003 million. The New York Jets, who had a league-low four selections, were the only other franchise under $3 million.

There were eight franchises that used six choices or fewer, and six of those teams ranked in the bottom 10 in rookie allocation. Conversely, four teams exercised two picks each in the first round, and all ranked in the top 11 allocations.

Split decision

Word is that the Cincinnati Bengals' decision to try to salvage the troubled career of Adam "Pacman" Jones was hardly unanimous inside the team's front office. Nor was it a slam dunk among the Bengals' coaching staff. It's not certain yet, however, just who pushed the hardest to sign Jones to a two-year contract. The sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft, Jones is only 26 and reportedly can still run. But the Bengals have two of the best young corners in the game, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, both of whom had six interceptions in 2009, and the best Jones can hope for is a nickel spot. The club insists that it will have a zero-tolerance policy for Jones, who started in 28 games in 2005-06 but has missed two of the past three seasons entirely and appeared in six games the past three years. The hope is that there are few off-field distractions in Cincinnati and that Jones will behave himself. But team officials privately acknowledge that Jones would cut himself with one misstep. One holdup in Jones' contract, which will be for the league minimum and won't be signed until Friday or Monday, is that the deal had to be reviewed by at least three people who claim to represent him.

Even Al agreed

Because the front office is so small, leaks about the Oakland Raiders are difficult to come by, but people close to the team insisted late Thursday night that the decision to release quarterback JaMarcus Russell earlier in the day was even supported by owner Al Davis. It was believed that Davis, who chose Russell with the top pick in the 2007 draft, might be the voice that saved the former LSU star, but that doesn't appear to be the case. In three seasons, the Raiders paid Russell $39 million and got very little in return. Still, for all his flaws, Russell is only 24 (he won't turn 25 until August), and has a rocket arm, so no one should be surprised if he is on some club's roster by training camp. ESPN.com surveyed 12 teams Thursday afternoon and half of them said they will explore "to some degree" -- whether that means reviewing videotape or making contact -- Russell's potential.

Busted but not bust-less

In response to all the e-mails and phone calls from friends and readers: No, the Pro Football Hall of Fame cannot banish Lawrence Taylor if the former New York Giants star is convicted of the charges brought against him Thursday. Hall of Fame bylaws dictate that only a man's on-field accomplishments be considered. I wasn't in the discussion room yet, but when LT was elected in 1999, there was considerable debate about his past indiscretions, particularly drug-related offenses, and they were not to be considered as an element of his resume. So LT, who was a brilliant player and redefined the linebacker position, is a Hall of Fame member for life.

New day

The NFLPA seems to have publicly softened its stance in remarks surrounding the negotiations (or lack thereof) on a collective bargaining agreement. But one area in which new executive director DeMaurice Smith has come under fire from some fairly prominent agents is in his lack of reliance on NFLPA veterans who have been through the wars before. Leftovers from the regime of the late Gene Upshaw, some agents contend, have been cut out of the loop as Smith endeavors to install his own people. The union recently interviewed a candidate who was supposed to replace an executive who has been with the NFLPA for years and is extraordinarily respected by the players and agents. The overarching view is that Smith has done some good things in his brief tenure, particularly with retired players, but he simply can't move forward without some acknowledgement of the past.

Young guns

Minicamp reviews were mostly mixed for second-year cornerbacks Keenan Lewis (third round) and Joe Burnett (fifth round), the pair of youngsters selected by Pittsburgh in the 2009 draft. But with the team seemingly souring on William Gay -- who started 14 games in '09 but was replaced in a draft weekend trade for Bryant McFadden of Arizona, the man he had replaced last year -- Lewis and Burnett might be thrown in as contenders for the team's nickel cornerback spot. Bryant immediately reclaimed the starting left corner position he vacated when signing as a free agent with the Cardinals last spring. While no one is dissing Gay publicly, clearly Pittsburgh coaches have lost confidence in him as a starter. It could be time for Lewis or Burnett to challenge him for the No. 3 slot on the depth chart.

Slow market

The market has been slow to develop for linebacker Adalius Thomas, recently released by the New England Patriots, and while the 10-year veteran probably will have a new home by training camp, he may have a financial comeuppance. When Thomas was released, it was assumed by most that he would quickly sign with the Jets and be reunited with Rex Ryan, his defensive coordinator in Baltimore and the man under whom he enjoyed his most productive seasons. But the Jets, who seem to be gearing up for a Super Bowl run, have demonstrated only lukewarm interest in signing Thomas, and the odds of a deal being consummated are less than 50 percent. Thomas is most effective when he is rushing off the edge -- he played largely inside during his three seasons with the Pats -- and the Jets signed Jason Taylor for that role. So it might be difficult to pigeonhole Thomas into the mix at this point. In his final three seasons in Baltimore (2004-06), Thomas totaled 28 sacks. In his three years with the Pats, he had 14½. New England signed him to a five-year, $35 million megadeal as a free agent in 2007, but he isn't going to find any offers even close to that at this point. The film doesn't lie and anyone who looks at the tape from '09 will see a player who was disinterested at times and who had lost much of his explosiveness.

Less is Moore

The glowing reports aside, it wouldn't be too wise to believe that rookie Jimmy Clausen showed enough during last week's Carolina minicamp to actually compete in camp with Matt Moore for the starting job. Team insiders think the former Notre Dame standout was OK but not much more than that, and he has a long way to go before he is ready to play. This is still Moore's team (he started five games in 2009), and he may have unearthed a couple of young receivers to help him in draft choices Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards. The rookies did pretty well in minicamp, and that may not bode well for Dwayne Jarrett, a former second-round pick (2007) who has been a disappointment. If Clausen has miles to go, Tony Pike of Cincinnati (sixth round), the other quarterback chosen by the Panthers a couple weeks ago, looked even more like a developmental project.


Jacksonville and Tampa Bay continue to look at possible backup quarterbacks. For the Bucs, second-year veteran Josh Freeman, the team's first-round choice in 2009, has been very good in the offseason as Tampa Bay continues its youth movement. … At this weekend's minicamp, the Ravens are looking forward to getting a look at linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence Cody, two second-rounders the coaches feel can contribute this season. … The New York Giants, as demonstrated by their selection of Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round, want more pressure off the edge in 2010. Taking a page from the book of former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants may go with four ends up front in nickel situations this season and simply try to out-quick opponents on the pass rush. … Miami still wants to move guard Justin Smiley, who signed a five-year, $25 contract as a free agent in 2009 and started 12 games in his first season with the club, but will not simply give him away. Smiley, a six-year veteran, would prefer a trade at his point. … Don't buy into the possibility of Green Bay signing either Thomas or free agent Derrick Burgess to beef up its pass rush. Burgess has heard nothing from the Packers, and reports of a possible signing appear to be speculation.

The last word

"He was smart; he carried three- and four-play packages at the line of scrimmage. He is very talented and he is very intelligent. [Intelligence] isn't an issue with him. And, when we had him, neither was work ethic" -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, the offensive coordinator at LSU when JaMarcus Russell played there

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