Lions lead in rookie allocation money

The Biblical adage that the last shall be first was certainly true in terms of the NFL's rookie allocation pool for the 2009 draft.

The Detroit Lions, first in the draft pecking order by virtue of their ignominious and record-setting 0-16 season in 2008, received the most rookie pool allocation dollars. That figure represents the maximum amount of salary cap space allotted to each team to sign its draft choices and undrafted free agents.

The Lions, who drafted Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first pick, were one of only four teams with two choices in the first round, and one of just five franchises to make 10 or more choices overall. That gave the Lions a little more than $8 million, the most of any team.

The Lions have already signed Stafford to a six-year contract, which guarantees him $41.7 million, and could be worth as much as $78 million.

Given the record deal with Stafford, the Lions need a large rookie pool. Detroit's rookie pool allocation is roughly 71 percent higher than the league-wide average of $4.711 million. The total rookie pool league-wide is $150.755 million. That represents an increase of about 7 percent over the 2008 rookie pool.

The Kansas City Chiefs had the highest rookie pool allocation for the 2008 draft, at $8.22 million.

Aside from Detroit, the other three franchises with two picks in the first round -- Buffalo, Denver and Green Bay -- all received rookie pool numbers in the top 10. Denver was second to Detroit in total rookie pool allocation, with its 10 choices netting $7.117 million.

Beyond the Lions and Broncos, Cincinnati and New England were the other two teams that received rookie allocations of $6 million or more. The Bengals picked high in every round, and the Patriots exercised 12 total choices, which tied the Dallas Cowboys for the most in the league.

Cincinnati made its initial choice in a round no lower than No. 6 in every stanza, and there were three rounds in which the Bengals exercised multiple picks.

A record 12 teams each earned rookie pools of $5 million or more.

Nine teams received rookie pools of less than $4 million.

There were six teams which each chose six draft prospects or fewer, and all received rookie allocations among the seven lowest in the NFL.

New Orleans, which made only four selections in seven rounds, received the lowest rookie pool number, $2.802 million. The New York Jets selected a league-low three players, and that was reflected in their allocation of just $3.429 million, ranking 26th in the league.

The rookie pool is essentially a cap within a cap. It represents the maximum amount that each franchise can spend, in terms of total cap dollars, on its first-year players. A team's rookie allocation pool is part of, not in addition to, the league's overall spending limit of about $127 million per franchise.

The formula for arriving at each team's rookie pool is viewed as somewhat Byzantine by even the most astute number-crunchers in the NFL. It is basically a function of how many overall choices each club makes and where those picks are slotted in each round.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.