Dom Bonvissuto
Tuesday July 8th, 2008

Peyton Manning. LaDainian Tomlinson. Brian Urlacher. If you were starting an NFL team from scratch to compete this fall, these three guys would seem to be the perfect place to start.

But what if you had to take into account the $116 million salary cap for the 2008 season? Now, Manning ($18.7M cap number), Tomlinson ($7.8M) and Urlacher ($5.8M) might not fit into your 53-man roster plans.

For the inaugural SI.com Salary Cap Roster Challenge, we gave our personnel experts Michael Lombardi and Bucky Brooks $116 million apiece and told them to go build a team, using current players' 2008 cap numbers. Here is Michael's team and here is Bucky's team. We then asked resident handicapper Dr. Z to break down each man's team and simulate a game between the two squads. Here is Dr. Z's breakdown.

Additionally, there were a few other ground rules:

• To include the 2008 rookies, the majority of whom have not signed yet, the following salaries were assigned to rookies based on their draft status: $2 million for first-rounders, $1 million for second-rounders, $500,000 for third-rounders, $400K for fourth-rounders, $350K for fifth-rounders and $300K for sixth- and seventh-rounders and undrafted free agents.

• To ensure no player appeared on both rosters, Lombardi and Brooks turned in their rosters to a third party, who then had them change the duplicate players. This process was repeated until both rosters were unique.

• To better define strategy and to complete the team, Lombardi and Brooks were instructed to pick a coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.

And why should the experts have all the fun? For your own roster-making pleasure, we inputted the 2008 cap numbers of every player under contract heading into training camp. Feel free to create your own 53-man rosters and send them along to siwriters@simail.com.

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