2016 Compensatory Draft Pick Update (3/13/2015)

After one of the wilder openers to the new league year in recent memory, I thought the end of the work week would be a good time to catch up on where the tracker for the 2016 compensatory picks stands. It’s only been four days and we’ve had a total of 74 unrestricted free agents change teams. As it stands now, it has resulted in 36 possible compensatory picks to be awarded. The list below is far from final—many more changes will be made before the year is out. However, it does give a good skeleton outline for expectations down the road.

DET3Ndamukong Suh$19,000,000
NE3Darrelle Revis$14,000,000
SEA3Byron Maxwell$10,500,000
DEN3Julius Thomas$9,200,000
DAL4DeMarco Murray$8,000,000
BAL4Torrey Smith$8,000,000
SF4Chris Culliver$8,000,000
BAL4Pernell McPhee$7,750,000
CLE4Jordan Cameron$7,500,000
DEN4Orlando Franklin$7,100,000
DAL4Jeremy Parnell$6,400,000
GB4Davon House$6,250,000
CLE4Buster Skrine$6,250,000
BUF4Da’Norris Searcy$5,937,500
CLE5Jabaal Sheard$5,500,000
CLE5Brian Hoyer$5,250,000
DET5Nick Fairley$5,000,000
SEA5James Carpenter$4,775,000
SF6Dan Skuta$4,100,000
BAL6Owen Daniels$4,083,333
NE6Shane Vereen$4,000,000
SF6Frank Gore$4,000,000
DAL6Henry Melton$3,750,000
SEA6Malcolm Smith$3,500,000
SD6Eddie Royal$3,333,333
NE6Akeem Ayers$3,000,000
PIT6Brice McCain$2,750,000
NE6Jonathan Casillas$2,666,667
IND7Sergio Brown$2,333,333
CIN7Marshall Newhouse$1,625,000
BAL7Tyrod Taylor$1,345,000
DET7Jed Collins$810,000
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
SEA?O’Brien SchofieldTBA
MIN?Christian PonderTBA
MIN?Jasper BrinkleyTBA
CAR?James DockeryTBA

Before any analysis takes place, a few notes need to be made:

  • You’ll notice that the APYs of the four players currently over the 32-pick are unknown. (There are also four others I don’t know yet that aren’t currently relevant to the results.) There is a good chance that any of these players could have APYs that move them up higher, and as such, fans of teams below the limit should be a bit more optimistic, and fans of teams just above the limit should show modest pessimism.
  • That said, the APY currently listed for Tyrod Taylor is a minimum based upon the only known information discovered by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (whose work on Twitter @RavensInsider has been valuable in building data for the tracker and is greatly appreciated). Wilson’s report of $1.2 million guaranteed over two years is used to add a veteran minimum base salary of $745,000 to a prorated yearly bonus of $600,000 to get the current figure of $1.345M APY. However, once full details emerge on Taylor’s contract I expect that number to go up.
  • Jason informed me that Terrance Knighton’s $450,000 “weight incentive” is unusual. Normally workout bonuses and incentives do not count in the APY. But this is one to keep in mind for altering scenarios at the end of the year, because if it does count it could push Knighton up from a 6th round value to a 5th, hypothetically helping Denver and/or hurting Washington.
  • I had hoped that someone would come through with a past example of whether a contract with a declined team option before free agency would qualify the player as a UFA for the compensatory draft pick formula. Miguel Benzan (@patscap) came through with that example: Donte Stallworth earning the Patriots a 5th in 2009 after they declined his option a year earlier. Miguel also advised to cross check with the NFL’s official free agency press release, and indeed, the players I was concerned about were listed. This is a relief with one less worry for the program, and also for Patriots fans (more on that later).

With that, there are interesting insights even after just four days. The one that stands out to me the most, as I remarked on Twitter, is how more and more teams are knowledgeable of the formula and using it to their advantage. Here are the eight teams that stand out to me as above the cut:

  • Baltimore: I’ve mentioned them before, as they’ve proclaimed Ozzie Newsome the Wizard of Compensatory Picks. To no surprise, their lost/gained ratio is already at 5/0.
  • Green Bay: They too have been mentioned before, with Ted Thompson’s long streak of avoiding UFAs. They only have one pick right now, but it’s a good 4th rounder for Davon House, and don’t be surprised if more come later, such as for Tramon Williams.
  • Denver: I’ve also noted in the past that this is a team that’s done a complete about face with attitudes in this regard. Andrew Mason has an excellent article for the team’s official website (and cites OTC) that demonstrates work that John Elway has done to project picks for the Broncos, coming to a similar conclusion as my program has. Denver holds two picks now but has the potential to get more.
  • Seattle: This is a team that has been utterly cleaning up on the comp pick process recently. They’re projected to have a league-best 7/0 lost/gained ratio for 2015, and they’re already at 4/0 for 2016. They have also made savvy moves to improve their team (such as the megatrade for Jimmy Graham) that aren’t compromising those perfect records. Chris Cassidy has a detailed read at Cover32 Seahawks that should be a must-read for Seahawks fans wanting a Seattle-centric take on the subject. It’s clear that this is an emphasis for John Schneider.
  • San Francisco: The NFC West wouldn’t be the same without an arms race featuring the 49ers opposing the Seahawks, and that’s the case here. Like Schneider, this is a focus for Trent Baalke, who received good news this morning when the Redskins gave Chris Culliver a monster contract to add a potential 4th rounder to the two 6ths already projected.
  • Dallas: I haven’t talked about the Cowboys that much, but I should have. The layman fan’s perception of Jerry Jones is that he loves making big splashes in free agency and elsewhere to build the Cowboys. But when it comes to compensatory picks, Jones knows how to be patient to work the system. Since 2014 the Cowboys are actually tied for second in all time comp picks awarded. This year is really a perfect storm for Dallas in this regard, as a tight salary cap and high-stakes franchise tagging of Dez Bryant led to several Cowboys UFAs leaving, not least of who included DeMarco Murray jumping to a division rival. However, two 4ths (one for Murray), a 6th, and possibly one more could ease that pain next offseason.
  • Cleveland: I never would have imagined to include this team in this list, as they are dead last in all time comp picks. But Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland had a prescient article just before free agency started warning us that things were going to be different this time around. And he has been correct: not only do the Browns currently boast the maximum of four comp picks, but they’re higher ones: two 4ths and two 5ths. If you’re a Browns fan definitely read Grossi’s article, it could give you a whiff of optimism that this team has needed for a long time.
  • New England: It’s not surprising to see Bill Belichick on a list like this. But what might be more surprising (or not, if you know what he’s capable of), is that Belichick is not only taking advantage of the system, he’s doing it one step ahead of his peers, even those listed above. As mentioned above, the Patriots used a team option to void Donte Stallworth’s contract in 2008 instead of terminating it, making him a qualifying UFA. This year, the Patriots used this mechanism on three high-profile players: Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Browner. They retained the flexibility to possibly keep them, but if they decided to part ways they would also retain the possibility of comp picks. Revis and Browner already are in the lost column in favor for New England, and Wilfork should be there soon. Without them, the Patriots would only have a pair of 6ths projected. Instead, they have three 6ths and the second highest comp pick, a 3rd for Revis.

Adding up the comp picks that these eight teams are at right now, and only one-fourth of the league holds three-fourths of the 2016 picks. This might seem unfair to some, especially when seven of the eight teams have been recent playoff contenders. But the rules are in place, and teams are simply observing the rules to make them work for them. In fact, one reason you see lots of regular contenders here may be that they get more chances to hit in the draft.


To wrap it up, here are a couple possible observances for the future:

  • While it’s possible that Vince Wilfork could net the Patriots a better comp pick, it’s not going to be much better. This is due to the “Alan Faneca rule”, which disappointed the Steelers and their fans when they discovered a player with ten or more accrued seasons can only earn a maximum of a 5th round pick. Hypothetically, there are several players (Lance Briggs, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne among them) with more than ten years, but Wilfork is the only one I’d imagine might ordinarily break the 5th round barrier.
  • Transition tagged Charles Clay’s situation is certainly up in the air after the Dolphins snatched Jordan Cameron away from the Browns. But any team interesting in signing Clay to an offer sheet should know that Clay will count against them in the comp pick formula. While most tendered players do not count, transition tagged players are the exception, perhaps because teams don’t receive any draft compensation for refusing to match the offer sheet. See Steve Hutchinson in 2007, who counted in favor of Seattle in the wake of the whole poison pill drama against Minnesota that resulted in retaliation ensnaring Nate Burleson.
  • danhufcuk

    Just letting you know the former Cowboys OL’s name is Jermey not Jeremy.

    • Nick

      That’s weird, from my records I had seen it as Jermey as recently as last Thursday. I’ve changed it in the database.

  • William Scott Eltzroth

    I`m confused, I thought only free agents counted towards Comp picks. I didn’t think that released players prior to free agency counted. Why I ask this is in the sixth, you have Dallas receiving a pick for D.L. Henry Melton who they released just before free agency started. Is this correct and if so how?

    • mike1520

      He had a one year deal with three option years

  • McGeorge

    How is the level of the compensatory picks decided?
    Is it based on the last years salary?
    If thats the case, then a 1 year rental , even if expensive, can be worth it, if it nets you a 3rd round pick, like the Patriots will get for Revis. That was a very good contract for them, getting Revis for a year at market prices, and then also a 3rd round pick at the end.

    • Nick

      It’s based on the salary of the player’s new team, actually. Still, Revis’s contract was huge either way.

      • McGeorge

        If there is a magic number (pretend it’s 10MM/year) then wouldn’t it make sense for teams to want to structure contracts so that the last year hits that threshhold if possible. So they can get an extra 3rd round pick.

        It comes down to what is the price you would pay to turn a compensatory:

        #6 into a #5

        #5 into a #4

        #4 into a #3

        • Phillip

          Contract structuring has nothing to do with the comp pick, neither does their previous contract. The compensatory pick a team receives for losing a player in free agency is determined by the value of the contract he signs in free agency, the yearly average.

          • McGeorge

            Ok, thanks, I didn’t realize it was the yearly average.
            If thats the case then it can make sense to pay a player slightly more if you can get a compensatory 3rd round pick instead of a 4th round pick.

  • mike1520

    What about Bruce Carter, Dewayne Harris & Justin Durant Contract: Coming in a 5 million, 3.5 million, and 3 million. For the cowboys

  • MF

    Jared Odrick?? Or does Miami not have a shot at compensatory because of the Suh Megadeal.

    • Phillip

      Exactly. The comp picks are compensation for losing players in free agency that they don’t replace with free agency.

  • Phillip

    The fact that a team is able to receive compensation for a player they released because he had a team option is ridiculous. Its no different than cutting a player without an option. If they can get away with doing that, then why wouldn’t all teams add some high priced bogus option onto the end of all contracts like that to assure compensation for a player they can’t retain?? I’d make it mandatory on all contracts if I was a GM, take full advantage of the system. I don’t blame NE for doing that, just think it’s bogus. If it’s not an actual expiring contract n you gotta release the player in any way, you shouldn’t get draft pick compensation. That’s my opinion anyway.

    • Nick

      It does seem like it goes against the general spirit of the rule for only being compensated for players you lost against your will. But as you said, if that’s the exception to the rule then you should take advantage of it as NE has. And at least in Revis’s case there’s a good chance the option was negotiated more by Revis than by the Patriots.

      • Richard Minor

        This honestly speaks to Belicheck playing chess and mostly everyone else playing checkers. Using your projections above:

        A. Pats trade their 5th rd pick to TB for TB 6th and Casillas. The difference in going from their 5th to TB 6th is 6 picks(2 by rounds and 4 Comp Picks) plus they get a 6th Comp Pick next year.

        B. Pats trade their 6th rd pick to Tenn for Tenn 7th and Casillas. The difference in going from their 6th to Tenn 7th is 12 picks(2 by rounds and 10 Comp Picks) plus they get another 6th Comp Pick next year.

        Just an extremely intelligent organization as a whole. Make the rules work for them.

        • Nick

          Agreed. I think my favorite Belichick draft gain is when he turned the 89th overall pick into the 33rd overall pick next year just because Marty Hurney *had* to have Armanti Edwards, of all players. Shame that Belichick blew that pick on Ras-I Dowling, but that’s the draft for you.

        • Humility

          When one does well at a game of strategy, others throw a temper tantrum and knock over the board (and the winner). The reward for being better in this league is being hated.

  • Samer Ismail

    One thing about Jed Collins: I’m not sure of the current salary levels, but in years past, I believe a player who signs a vet-minimum contract has *not* qualified as a free agent gained/lost under the formula. They have to sign for a “bit more” than that. I know Collins is below 32 so he won’t earn a pick for the Lions ATM, but I don’t know that he costs the Cowboys a pick, either.

    • Nick

      That’s one of the big questions that I hope is clarified when the 2015 comp picks are announced next week. You are correct that in the past low-contract guys did not qualify, but the tolerance for that has seemingly gone down in recent years. After the 2015 picks are announced I’ll analyze and make any respective changes to the 2016 projection. Right now, Collins is the only player on the qualifying bubble for 2016, but there should be many more of them as we get to the later stages of free agency.

      Here’s a relevant paragraph I wrote earlier that explains why I’ve chosen to qualify all players for now:

      “The new development that has happened since AdamJT13 stopped projecting the picks is that the minimum value needed to qualify for the formula appears to have dropped considerably, resulting in more qualifying players. For example, in 2009 Adam observed the threshold was around $850,000 APY, and in 2010 Adam estimated it closer to $900,000 APY. But in 2013, the signing of Philip Wheeler counted against Oakland despite only making the veteran minimum of $700,000 at the time. Perhaps it could have been explained by the fact that he played 98.5% of the snaps on defense in 2012. But in 2014 there were several qualifying low value players that played much less. The most stark example was Brian Leonard qualifying in favor for Cincinnati on a veteran minimum of $715,000 despite only playing in 28.1% of the offensive snaps in 2013. Similarly, Mike Pollak qualified against Cincinnati on a minimum salary benefit contract of $780,000 despite only appearing in 32.4% of 2013’s offensive snaps.”

  • Mike

    I have a question for you as a Bills fan. You currently have the Bills getting one comp pick for Da’Norris Searcy
    The Bills have technically lost Spiller(4APR), Searcy(5.9APR), Lee Smith(3m APR), and Erik Pears(2.5 APR) with the possibility of still losing Brandon Spikes to make their losses at 5
    The Bills have gained Felton(2.3 APR), Taylor(1.3APR) and Clay(7.6) for a net gain of 3.
    If Spikes were to sign with another team does that give the Bills an additional comp pick next year because they now have a net loss of two players? Thanks.

  • John

    Before I start, thank you for the compensatory pick updates.

    My question is in regards to the 49ers. I saw Mike Iupati signed with the Cardinals for 5yrs/$40 mil. Why isn’t his contract in the compensatory count?

    • corners

      you have to lose more free agents than gained

  • corners

    Seems like this system needs to be changed.

    Should a team get a 3rd pick for picking up a player for just 1 season? Seems like you are just rewarding teams with important draft picks for having spent some money on a player for just 1 season.

    • corners

      They should change it so it only applies to players the original team drafted. And not award draft picks from free agents that only stayed 1 season.