Jones' deal highlights rookie value

In analyzing the straightforward four-year contract (with a team option for a fifth year) signed by Patriots first-round draft choice Chandler Jones, one thought comes to the forefront: If the salary cap stays flat over the next few years, as owners project, the potential value of players in Jones' situation will be that much greater.

The reason is that Jones ' salary cap charge will be between $1.5 million and $2.5 million per year over the course of the deal.

So to land a potential top young defender, and have it count less than 2 percent against the $120 million salary cap, represents great value.

As for the nitty-gritty of Jones' pact, it has a total value of $8.17 million. He gets a $4.38 million signing bonus up front and will earn base salaries of $390,000 in 2012, $761,522 in 2013, $1.13 million in 2014 and $1.5 million in 2015.

The base salaries in the first three years are fully guaranteed. A total of $752,284 is guaranteed in the final year.

But the key aspect of these numbers is the salary-cap charge, and that's why the teams that draft and develop well over the next few years will put themselves in the best economic position to succeed.