With the league offices closing for today, it also closes out the addition of compensatory free agents (CFAs) into the formula for the 2017 NFL Draft. Note that while last year this cutoff date was May 12, it is my belief that from now on the cutoff date will be the second Tuesday after the NFL Draft, as there are several mentions of May 10 in the official free agency press release. With the full slate of potential qualifying CFAs now known, it’s time to take a look at the list that’s emerged.
|Team||Rd||Compensated Free Agent||Real APY|
|Compensation below 32-pick limit; not awarded|
The most notable observance from this year’s list is that currently, we are set to have a record number of 3rd and 4th round compensatory picks awarded, at seven and twelve. (There were six 3rd round comp picks awarded in 1997 and 2005, and nine 4th round comp picks awarded just last year.) Those numbers may not hold after snap count adjustments, but evidence continues to grow that more and more teams are being mindful of the compensatory formula. Many of the usual suspects like Baltimore, Green Bay, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are prominent on this year’s list, and there are also a couple other newcomers like Los Angeles (Mike Florio reported that they were the first team to agree to a trade including a potential compensatory pick) and Miami (who rescinded Olivier Vernon’s transition tag to ensure he would net the Dolphins a compensatory pick). With respect to the Dolphins, this led Drew Rosenhaus to talk with some local Miami media talent about his legitimate frustration from an agent’s standpoint with how the compensatory formula is making it difficult to get some of his UFA clients signed. It will be curious to see if more agents complain about this if the trend continues to grow.
As with every year, there will be some picks in which there will be a question as to whether or not they will be awarded. Here are the two that I’m keeping an eye on:
- Carolina rescinded the franchise tag on Josh Norman on April 20, who then signed with Washington on April 25. It is my belief that since this transaction occurred before today, Norman will qualify as a CFA, based upon Jeremiah Trotter qualifying in 2003 after his franchise tag was rescinded by Philadelphia on April 6, 2002 and then signed with (again) Washington on April 20, 2002.
- Russell Okung and Kelvin Beachum (click their names for contract details) signed unique deals with Denver and Jacksonville that start off as a one year contract with a team option for four more years at much higher rates. It is my belief that the compensatory formula will consider only that first year of the contract, based upon Brandon Browner giving Seattle only a 6th round pick in 2015 instead of a 5th due to his contract also containing a team option after Year 1. If I’m wrong about that, or if the rules have changed, the following changes would occur:
- Denver would get a 7th for Vernon Davis instead of a 3rd for Brock Osweiler.
- Seattle would get a 3rd for Okung instead of a 4th for JR Sweezy.
- Pittsburgh would get a 3rd or 4th for Beachum instead of a 5th for him.
Names To Watch In Training Camp
For the next few months, the most important thing to watch for with regards to 2017 compensatory picks is if any CFAs fail to make their team’s roster. If any CFA is permanently cut from their team’s roster before Week 10, they will not qualify for the compensatory formula. Using a little intuition, there are some teams that could feasibly improve their standing in 2017 compensatory picks if they cut certain players, and other teams that need to hope that certain teams don’t cut some of their former players. Last year, the most extreme example of that was Shareece Wright getting cut, which flipped a 6th rounder from San Diego to San Francisco.
Teams With UFAs Signed
- Buffalo: They were very mindful in signing multiple UFAs at low enough levels that should not meet the minimum qualifying APY. The one exception is Zach Brown. If he is cut, the Bills would be eligible for a 7th for Ron Brooks.
- New York Jets: They’re stuck on a net value 7th that’s below the 32-pick limit. The Jets signed Jarvis Jenkins to play behind a deep position with Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, and potentially Muhammad Wilkerson. Cutting Jenkins would incur $2.25 million of dead money against the 2016 cap, but it would also put the Jets in line to pick up a 4th for Damon Harrison.
- Pittsburgh: They signed Ryan Harris to fill a swing tackle role. With only a modest $675,000 signing bonus to deal with, the Steelers could be eligible for a 7th for Sean Spence if they cut Harris.
- Indianapolis: Scott Tolzien is slated to be Andrew Luck’s backup, but if for some reason they go with Stephen Morris instead, the Colts could pick up a 7th for Dwight Lowery.
- Carolina: Gino Gradkowski is on the bubble of the minimum APY cutoff anyway, but if he is cut that would put the Panthers in play for a possible 7th for Brad Nortman.
- Seattle: Like with Carolina, Bradley Sowell is on the same qualification bubble, and if he’s cut it would ensure the Seahawks getting a 6th for Brandon Mebane. Furthermore, the feeling that I get from Seahawks fans is that they aren’t too concerned about Sowell counting against their team.
Teams With UFAs Lost
- Baltimore: This is the team that has the most to worry on this front, and their eyes will be on Atlanta, who signed both Matt Schaub and Courtney Upshaw. If one of them is cut, the Ravens’ 3rd for Kelechi Osemele would become a net value 7th unlikely to make the 32 pick limit, and if both are cut the Ravens would be shut out of compensatory picks altogether, a rarity for Ozzie Newsome.
- Denver: As mentioned above, the Broncos won’t get a 7th for Ryan Harris if he is cut.
- Green Bay: As mentioned above, the Packers won’t get a 7th for Scott Tolzien if he is cut.
- Arizona: As mentioned above, the Cardinals won’t be eligible for a 7th for Bradley Sowell if he is cut, but he’s likely to fall below the 32-pick limit anyway.
An Additional Discovery
Finally, after looking at the comp pick results from last year, I now believe that per game roster bonuses considered as not likely to be earned (NLTBE) do not count in the compensatory formula, as they must be considered a type of incentive, and incentives have never counted in the formula. In most cases, however, this does not cause significant changes to projections. It mainly helps to explain why certain picks were in an order that I wasn’t expecting.