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Durkin: Bears' 2015 Rookie Salary Cap Projection

By Dan Durkin--

(CBS) Between now and the time the Bears report to Bourbonnais on July 29 for training camp, they'll need to add 24 players to their roster. After this weekend, they'll put a big dent in that number between the players they draft and undrafted rookies they're able to secure after the draft concludes this Saturday afternoon.

General manager Ryan Pace navigated the free agent market prudently, and the Bears head into the draft with more than $11 million in free cap space.

The new rookie compensation pool has streamlined the on-boarding process league-wide. All rookie deals are four years in length, the minimum salary amount for 2015 is $435,000, there's a floor and ceiling for the first-year cap number and a limit on the total contract value of each pick.

From 2014 to 2015, the salary cap increased by 7.5 percent — from $133 million to $143 million. Rather than just multiplying last year's contract value by this growth percentage, the NFL has essentially frozen bonus amounts. This ensures there's no disparity between identically slotted players from year-to-year other than the increase in minimum salary amount.

Recall if you will -- or click this link to a previous column I wrote about the salary cap mechanics -- that in the offseason, teams are required to only account for the top 51 salaries on their roster. Thus, the value of their contracts will be reduced by the players that they bump off of the top 51 list. The average of the bottom six contracts on the current Bears roster is $530,000.

So, what will be the approximate cost for the new crop of Bears? Using the six draft picks they have at their disposal, let's take a look at the price tags of each pick.

* Round 1: 7th overall's 2014 comparable is Tampa Bay's Mike Evans -- $14.7 million total value, $8.9 million signing bonus and a $2.6 million cap hit in 2015 ($2.1 million using the top 51 accounting).

* Round 2: 39th overall's 2014 comparable is Jacksonville's Marqise Lee -- $5.19 million total value, $2.08 million signing bonus and a $955,000 cap hit in 2015 ($418,700 using the top 51 accounting).

* Round 3: 71st overall's 2014 comparable is Cleveland's Christian Kirksey -- $3.055 million total value, $662,500 signing bonus and a $600,000 cap hit in 2015 ($78,732 using the top 51 accounting).

* Round 4: 106th overall's 2014 comparable is San Francisco's Bruce Ellington -- $2.71 million total value, $474,428 signing bonus and a $553,607 cap hit in 2015 ($41,274 using the top 51 accounting).

* Round 5: 142nd overall's 2014 comparable is Washington's Ryan Grant -- $2.45 million total value, $213,612 million signing bonus and a $488,000 cap hit in 2015.

* Round 6: 182nd overall's 2014 comparable is Minnesota's Antone Exum -- $2.35 million total value, $115,788 signing bonus and a $464,000 million cap hit in 2015.

Thus, assuming no trades by the Bears and that all six make the roster this fall, the eventual cost of the 2015 rookie class will be approximately $5.735 million, but the offseason charge will only be $2.628 million.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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