2016 Compensatory Draft Picks Update (5/12/2015)

The notable day of May 12 (the artist formerly known as June 1) is coming to a close, and among the notable aspects of this date is when Unrestricted Free Agents usually transition into Street Free Agents. This further means there will no longer be any more additions to the players eligible to qualify for the compensatory draft pick formula for 2016, since it focuses exclusively on UFAs. This will provide an opportunity to update where the 2016 comp picks stand at this moment.

UPDATE (7:30 PM ET): I learned soon after making this post that Corey Hilliard retired.  As such, I have removed him from the program’s consideration.  Although I can’t immediately think of a precedent for retired players, I find it hard to imagine that they would qualify.  Even if Hilliard did qualify, he would have been highly unlikely to earn the Lions a pick, as the list beyond the fold demonstrates.

2015-05-12If this list to the right looks extraordinarily long to you, you’re not wrong in thinking it’s extraordinary. I’m not sure if I can ever recall a year in which there was anywhere near this many eligible compensatory picks, currently at 44. Perhaps this is an aberration, or perhaps more and more teams are learning how to manipulate the comp pick formula to their benefit, as teams like Baltimore and Green Bay have done for years.

Now, you may make the observation that there will be several players currently listed in the cancellation chart that won’t qualify for the formula due to signing for too low of an APY, and you may think that will drive down that number of 44 eligible comp picks. This is true, but only marginally so. If I set the qualification threshold to above $825,000 APY (where I’m guessing it will eventually be around), it still results in 41 eligible comp picks. Even boosting the threshold to above $950,000 APY still results in 40 picks. One end result of this is that this has pushed out a lot of the usual suspects (Baltimore, Green Bay, Denver, Seattle) from gaining the maximum amount of comp picks due to the 32 pick limit. Another odd result is that there are four teams (Kansas City, Washington, Carolina, and Cincinnati) that have all of their eligible picks beyond the 32 pick limit. This is a particular gutshot for the Chiefs, who have all three of their picks in that limbo zone.

It should also be noted that out of all of the comp picks within the 32-pick limit, the two that are the most tenuous are Arizona’s 5th for Dan Williams and San Diego’s 6th for Ryan Mathews. Both of those picks rely on players who signed for $825,000 to qualify, an amount that I’m guessing will be right on the bubble. Specifically, Arizona and San Diego need, respectively, Sam Acho and Seyi Ajirotutu to qualify to get those picks.


Most of this increase in the size of the comp pick pool since my last update has simply come with teams who had no hope of getting comp picks signing low level UFAs from teams who did have such a stake. Perhaps the most interesting stories I can tell at this point since then involve Buffalo. The Bills lost a UFA to Tampa Bay in Larry Dean on April 9 (1 year, $745,000 APY). For a good month, this gave the Bills an additional 6th round compensatory pick for Lee Smith to go with their longstanding 6th for CJ Spiller. But then, right after the draft on May 4, they signed Alex Carrington to a 1 year, $825,000 deal. As ESPN’s Mike Rodak noted (and cited OTC in the process), this cost Buffalo that 6th they could have had for Smith. I thought this was a curious move by the Bills. Why couldn’t they wait just 9 days to sign Carrington to assure that they’re in play for that 6th for Smith? The only reason I can think of is that there may have been another team or teams in play for Carrington’s services after the draft, and GM Doug Whaley felt he couldn’t risk losing out on Carrington (who started his career in Buffalo) by waiting until after May 12. Of course, in the end it could be likely that both Dean and Carrington don’t qualify, thus changing nothing for Buffalo.


One more important note that some of you may be curious about is how Greg Hardy’s possible 10-game suspension will factor into the 2016 compensatory picks. ESPN’s David Newton reported that if it sticks, he wouldn’t qualify at all for the formula, stating that Hardy “must be on the Dallas roster for at least 10 games this season”. It is known that a player typically does not qualify for the formula if he is cut before Week 10. But in Hardy’s case, he would still be on the Dallas roster, but on the reserve/suspended list. I’m hesitant to entirely remove Hardy from consideration unless I can track down a precedent for doing so.

Now, I had earlier speculated that suspensions could possibly devalue comp pick eligible players, citing the case of Brandon Browner being demoted from a 5th to a 6th in 2015. But after taking a closer look at Browner’s contract with New England (which was one of three the Patriots used a team option on to possibly work the comp pick formula in their favor), I am now guessing that in his case, the formula only judged his contract as a 1-year deal for $3.9 million, instead of the $5.05 million APY for the whole deal. Jason pointed out to me a possible precedent for this from AdamJT13’s work from 2010, where he noted that Albert Haynesworth did not give the Titans the 97th overall pick that year despite becoming the “$100 million dollar man”. Clearly everyone, including the inanimate compensatory pick formula, wasn’t buying the real worth of that deal.

However, since I’ve yet to find another example of a suspended player involved in the awarding of a compensatory pick, I can’t rule out the possibility that Hardy will be devalued or disqualified if this suspension sticks. If that happens, it’s unlikely to hurt Carolina since they are also unlikely to get a comp pick for Hardy anyway. But it could help Dallas considerably by freeing up a 4th round comp pick for DeMarco Murray that’s currently being cancelled out by Hardy. If Hardy is devalued, he would cancel out a lower valued player (likely Bruce Carter), and if he does not qualify at all, Dallas would get that 4th for Murray without losing any other comp pick in return.


With this update in the books, the next time I’ll take an in-depth look at the list and chart is after the final cutdowns to the 53-man rosters in early September. There could be a chance that some of the low-level UFAs that signed don’t make it out of the preseason, and those are moves that could remove players from the 2016 compensatory pick formula.

However, if you’re interested in a specific breakdown of any team, I’d be certainly willing to explain further, as I’ve done for the Broncos in a new website I created not too long ago. Just speak up in the comments of this post with any questions!