There has been a lot of conversation about the NFL compensatory pick process lately, and how many comp picks the Steelers might get in 2014. Hopefully, I can shed a little light on it as I take a closer look at how the NFL determines compensatory picks.
What Are Compensatory Picks?
I have a bad habit of assuming what’s common knowledge and what’s not, so I’ll start from scratch. The NFL awards compensatory draft picks (“comp” picks) to teams to compensate them for the loss of free agents during the previous off season. So, the picks the Steelers are awarded for the 2014 NFL draft are for the losses of free agents before the 2013 season. Teams gain additional picks at the end of the appropriate regular draft rounds.
How Are NFL Compensatory Picks Determined?
The exact formula the NFL uses to determine compensation isn’t publicly available. No one outside the league headquarters can definitively say what picks will be awarded. Some of their deciding factors are public knowledge however, and other details can be pieced together based on history leaving you able to make a fairly accurate educated guess. In the end, it’s about net free agent loss. Here are some of the main determining factors:
- Players signed to non-qualifying, minimum or low salaries do not factor.
- Players that are cut do not count. Also, non-tendered restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents aren’t considered.
- Each player signed cancels out a player lost.
- The round of the pick awarded is primarily decided by the average annual value of the contract signed. Free agent players signed cancel out lost players with equal contracts, then lower contracts, before eventually canceling out higher contracts.
When Does The NFL Announce Compensatory Picks?
The NFL typically announces comp picks via a press release in March prior to the draft.
How Many Compensatory Picks Can A Team Receive?
Four picks is the maximum compensation that a team can receive.
Can The Team Trade The Awarded Picks To Move Up In The Draft?
No, that would be great, but compensatory picks cannot be traded.
How Many Comp Picks Will The Steelers Receive For The 2014 Draft?
I believe they’ll receive 2. I’m inclined to believe that they’ll receive a 3rd round comp pick for Mike Wallace, and 5th round pick for the loss of Keenan Lewis.
Let’s look at the contracts of what I believe are the qualifying free agent gains and losses.
2013 Steelers Qualifying Free Agent Losses
Mike Wallace- Signed by the Dolphins to a 5 year, $60 Mil contract, including $30 Mil guaranteed.
Keenan Lewis- Signed by the Saints to a 5 year, $25 Mil deal, including $10.5 Mil guaranteed with several escalators.
Rashard Mendenhall- Signed by the Cardinals to a one year, $2.5 Mil contract, with $500,000 guaranteed.
2013 Steelers Qualifying Free Agent Gains
Bruce Gradkowski- Signed by the Steelers to a 3 year, $4.1 Mil contract, including $850,000 guaranteed.
Noteworthy transaction- Will Allen was signed to a one year deal by the Cowboys, but was cut in November, and re-signed by the Steelers.
While factors such as playing time and post-season honors are said to be considered in the NFL’s formula, I don’t believe they carry significant consideration, or are even considered all of the time. Also, players who are placed on IR seem to be a factor sometimes, while not carrying any consideration other times.
To use our hated division foes as an example, the Ravens lost Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Brandon McKinney, Haruki Nakamura, Cory Redding, and Tom Zbikowski in 2012, while gaining Sean Considine, and Corey Graham. They received the maximum 4 compensatory picks in the 2013 draft. As compensation, they were awarded a 4th, a 5th, a 6th, and a 7th. While this is only one example, and without getting too detailed in terms of their contracts, the losses and gains in terms of cap dollars and contract lengths aren’t equal. They simply lost 6, gained 2 and got 4.
It is a possibility that the Steelers will be awarded more for Lewis, possibly a 4th, but I’m inclined to believe he’ll return a 5th round comp pick. Feel free to ask if there’s anything I left out or if there’s something that needs clarifying.