2018 Compensatory Pick Potential

With the franchise and transition tag deadline having passed (and thus taking some of the highest profile free agents off the market), it’s time to take a look at what each team has to work with with regard to gaining compensatory picks for the 2018 NFL Draft.  Teams will have a higher potential to gain comp picks if they have a high quantity and quality of players becoming Unrestricted Free Agents at the start of the new league year, of which will become Compensatory Free Agents if the satisfy the rules of the formula. Teams will also need the ability to lose more CFAs than they gain, an easier task for teams with fewer needs to fill with external UFAs, or if they are constrained in other ways from signing them, such as having low cap space.

Buffalo

The Bills lead the league with 23 pending UFAs.  Among these, the biggest name is Stephon Gilmore, the Bills’ first round pick from 2012 that was not restrained by a franchise or transition tag.  Beyond Gilmore, there are multiple defensive players that are pending UFAs. These include rebound starters in Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown. Their #2 and #3 receivers, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, also have expiring contracts, At the very least, the Bills are in good position to pick up a high quantity of compensatory picks, and some of them could be worth more than just 7th rounders. Potential: High

Miami

Starting defender Jelani Jenkins and reserve pass rusher Andre Branch are the leading names to watch here, with a pair of tight ends in Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims following them on the offensive side.  There’s also the curious case of Kenny Stills—has he done enough with his inconsistent talent to secure a good payday on the market?  The Dolphins could probably squeeze out compensatory picks if they really want them, but unlike last offseason they don’t have many obvious high valued UFAs. Potential: Moderate

New England

Donta Hightower and Martellus Bennett lead the way after Jamie Collins was traded, and they’re followed by Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch and James Develin among starters.  Even reserves like Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard or Duron Harmon could get a decent deal elsewhere.  A late season acquisition of Michael Floyd could further pad the Patriots’ CFA total.  New England may re-sign a few of these players, but others may try to find a bigger payday elsewhere, even if they ultimately come back to New England later in their careers at a more reasonable price.  Potential: Very High

NY Jets

After extending Brian Winters, the Jets have only 10 pending UFAs for sure. Ryan Clady may be an 11th if the formula does not rule him ineligible to become a CFA due to his renegotiated and declined 2017 team option. Regardless, after cutting many high priced veterans after a poor season, the Jets may be entering a full blown rebuild mode that requires signing multiple CFAs to take them out of comp pick contention. Potential: Very Low

Baltimore

Once again, Ozzie Newsome is in good position to accumulate compensatory picks if he so chooses.  Brandon Williams, Ricky Wagner, Lawrence Guy, Kamar Aiken and Kyle Juszczyk are all starters hitting the market for sure, and Mike Wallace can be added to that list if the Ravens decline a team option on him for 2017.  Combine this with somewhat tight cap space for 2017, and Newsome could already be planning to let some of these players walk for multiple comp picks. Potential: Very High

Cincinnati

Kevin Zeitler and Dre Kirkpatrick are the leading young CFAs for the Bengals, with 30 year old Brandon LaFell also among starters on the list.  Andrew Whitworth is also getting a lot of buzz, but because he has 11 accrued seasons the highest comp pick the Bengals can get for him is a 5th.  Other longtime veterans include Domata Peko, Karlos Dansby, Wallace Gilberry and Eric Winston, but they may not see large deals if they even choose to continue their careers.  Cincinnati does prefer to focus on getting comp picks so there’s a good chance that some of these players they do not retain will result in draft gains in 2018. Potential: High

Cleveland

The new Browns front office proved last offseason that they were focused on gaining comp picks, even when they had a low number of potential CFAs.  Once again, their pending total is low—in fact, it’s the league’s lowest at 4.  Terrelle Pryor leads the way, but the Ohio State fan favorite may be a more logical re-signing candidate.  Austin Pasztor started all 16 games at right tackle, and Jordan Poyer started six at safety before being placed on IR. But the overarching question is whether, with a large amount of cap space coming off the worst record in the league, they can avoid to continue to participate in the UFA market. Potential: Moderate

Pittsburgh

Le’Veon Bell may be off the market via the franchise tag, but the Steelers have plenty of other CFA candidates. Among them include Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones, and Markus Wheaton.  Landry Jones is also a young quarterback with an expiring contract. The Steelers will be in good position to gain comp picks among their pending UFAs if they so choose. Potential: High

Houston

AJ Bouye is the name to watch here, as he had a good season in a contract year.  Will the Texans reward him with an extension, or will they let someone else give him more money than they think he deserves?  Beyond Bouye, they have John Simon as a potentially moderate CFA candidate should he walk, have the likes of longtime veterans like Vince Wilfork and Quintin Demps as starters with expiring contracts, and both kicker Nick Novak and punter Shane Lechler up for new deals.  That’s a little for Houston to work with, and it’s important to see what the futures hold for those players if they do try to secure a high comp pick for Bouye if he walks. Potential: Moderate

Indianapolis

Jack Doyle, Erik Walden and maybe Hugh Thornton are the only starter-quality players on the Colts’ UFA list, with the rest dominated with over the hill type names like Trent Cole and Mike Adams.  Despite some high-profile free agency moves the Colts always seem to squeeze out a comp pick or two per year, so they can’t be completely ruled out, but this seems like a rather poor year for the Colts to worry too much about comp picks. Potential: Very Low

Jacksonville

After several seasons of spending big in free agency due to poor incumbent talent, the Jaguars still haven’t turned the corner into competitiveness.  This year, their cap space is smaller, and their incumbent talent pending as CFAs is slightly larger.  But none of those names—Kelvin Beachum, Luke Joeckel, Jonathan Cyprien, Prince Amukamara, Denard Robinson—really move the needle.  More work is still needed in Jacksonville after a coaching change coming off yet another poor season, and that may mean acquiring more CFAs from other teams to bring in. Potential: Very Low

Tennessee

While the Titans have improved this year, none of their pending UFAs are particularly significant.  With plenty of cap space to work with, the Titans will likely continue to improve the roster to get it to the next step, and that could include acquiring more CFAs. Potential: Very Low

Denver

Russell Okung and Sylvester Williams are the leading starters that will become UFAs.  Special teams ace Kayvon Webster can’t be counted out, nor can DeMarcus Ware–though after 12 seasons in the league the highest the Broncos can get for him is a 5th.  The Broncos’ compensatory potential is not as high as it’s been in the past three seasons, but John Elway has proven that he seeks them, so the Broncos can’t be completely ruled out. Potential: Moderate

Kansas City

With Eric Berry off the board via an extension, that leaves Dontari Poe as the Chiefs’ only high-profile pending UFA left.  The Chiefs are strapped for cap space, thus they may not be able to afford him. However, other than Poe the Chiefs have only 4 or 5 other pending UFAs (depending on how the formula judges Josh Mauga’s early voiding), so that may mean the Chiefs could have to completely abstain if they want a comp pick for Poe. Potential: Moderate

LA Chargers

With Melvin Ingram getting the franchise tag, all that’s left on the Chargers’ pending UFA list are smaller names like Manti Te’o, Jahleel Addae, Ronnie Hillman or Danny Woodhead. There’s room for the Chargers to get comp picks, but they may only be low valued ones, and perhaps not valued enough to hold off on signing CFAs of their own. Potential: Low

Oakland

The Raiders have finally turned a corner, and now the question will be whether Ted Thompson acolyte Reggie McKenzie will follow his path of prioritizing compensatory picks.  The names in play for the Raiders aren’t huge ones—Latavius Murray, Mychal Rivera, Perry Riley, Malcolm Smith, Menelik Watson, DJ Hayden, Matt McGloin.  However, there’s enough of them that McKenzie could still participate in some CFA shopping and still get a comp pick or two.  Or, he could fully abstain—that’s what Ted Thompson does even if the picks coming back aren’t higher than 6th or 7th rounders.  We should learn a lot from what path McKenzie chooses to take this offseason. Potential: Moderate

Dallas

The Cowboys have 20 pending UFAs, and also are (once again) dead last in cap space.  That alone could lead to a high quantity of comp picks.  None of those 20 players will likely have exceptionally high value on the market, but there are mid-level starters such as Terrance Williams, Jack Crawford, Ronald Leary, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and Terrell McClain that could form a basis for gaining comp picks. The Cowboys may not get much higher than 6th or 7th round comp picks, but there could be many of them. Potential: High

NY Giants

With Jason Pierre-Paul once again receiving the franchise tag, the most prominent CFA candidate now becomes Johnathan Hankins.  After their major investment in Damon Harrison, retaining Hankins may be too much to sink in the defensive tackle position. Beyond Hankins, the Giants also have 17 total pending UFAs, so they may have some breathing room to sign a few CFAs of their own and still preserve a high comp pick for Hankins should he walk. Potential: Moderate

Philadelphia

The Eagles have the second lowest number of pending UFAs with 6.  Bennie Logan and Nolan Carroll are the only starters on that list, so they will likely have to hold back on the CFA market for any hope on comp picks.  They are among the teams with the lowest amount of cap space and most of their significant players already extended, so they may not have room to sign many CFAs anyway. Potential: Very Low

Washington

With Kirk Cousins getting the exclusive franchise tag, the Redskins’ remaining likely CFA candidates include mainly over-30 veterans like DeSean Jackson, Vernon Davis or Pierre Garcon.  There’s some buzz around some of those players, but considering the Redskins historically do not care about comp picks hopes in DC shouldn’t get too high in this regard. Potential: Low

Chicago

The Bears are nearly in the exact same place they were at this time last year: a large number of pending UFAs, but only Alshon Jeffery being the name worth anything major.  He did little to justify a second franchise tag, and his market value took another hit with a suspension.  It shouldn’t be difficult for them to form a plan for a Jeffery comp pick, but the Bears are also a team that traditionally doesn’t care about comp picks.  Potential: Low

Detroit

The Lions have the entire right side of their offensive line (Riley Reiff, Larry Warford) and the entire left side of their defensive line (Tyrunn Walker, Devin Taylor) set to become CFAs.  That should set a foundation for a basis of 2018 comp picks if they don’t re-sign all of those players.  Having 20 total pending CFAs could help in seeing more peripheral names pad their comp pick total, too. Potential: High

Green Bay

Ted Thompson’s notable abstinence from unrestricted free agency has come under fire in the past season or two as some have seen the Packers’ roster as not being as strong as it could be if he did sign CFAs more often.  This year, he does have good ammunition to exploit the compensatory formula again if he so chooses: Eddie Lacy, TJ Lang, JC Tretter, Micah Hyde, Jared Cook, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry are all seeing contracts set to expire.  History would suggest Thompson will hold firm and secure whatever comp picks he can get from those players he doesn’t extend, but keep an eye to see if pressure causes him to alter course. Potential: High

Minnesota

Unlike last year, this year the Vikings have a few intriguing names that could fetch decent comp picks.  Matt Kalil and Cordarelle Patterson are first round picks that haven’t fully met expectations but could get good deals elsewhere from teams thinking that a change of scenery could help.  There is also the possibility that Adrian Peterson could count in their favor, if the formula does not disqualify him from having his original contract shortened through renegotiation and a declined team option. Overall, the question will be whether they can afford to refrain from signing too many CFAs in an effort to rebound from a season of dashed high expectations. Potential: Moderate

Atlanta

The Falcons do have have a decent quantity (17) of pending CFAs, but few that will move the needle on the free agent market.  If the Falcons go easy in acquiring CFAs of their own they could be in good position to gain 2018 comp picks, but they are likely to only be low picks. Potential: Low

Carolina

With Kawann Short getting the franchise tag and Mario Addison receiving an extension, the Panthers don’t have many other big names—perhaps backup AJ Klein or the long-tenured Charles Johnson. Carolina did demonstrate last year with Josh Norman that it was willing to rescind a franchise tag. That action earned them a 3rd round comp pick for Norman.  Such a maneuver can’t be ruled out for Short, as well. Potential: Low

New Orleans

With Drew Brees extended there’s very little else of note on the Saints’ pending UFA ledger; only 33 year old Jahri Evans and the inconsistent Nick Fairley are starters on the list.  Combine this with the fact that the Saints have only earned two regular compensatory picks in Mickey Loomis’s tenure—by far the lowest in that time span, and both were 7th rounders—and there shouldn’t be much expectation that this will change. Potential: Very Low

Tampa Bay

The one name to watch out for with the Bucs is backup quarterback Mike Glennon, who had been regularly mentioned in trade rumors before but valued highly enough that he’s never left Tampa Bay.  Even if he gets a market value contract as a high end backup elsewhere that could still be worth a 4th or 5th round comp pick.  Other starters with expiring contracts include William Gholston, Bradley McDougald, Chris Conte and Joe Hawley, and longtime veterans like Vincent Jackson and Daryl Smith are also on the list.  Tampa Bay also has a high number of pending UFAs at 17.  The Bucs appear to have pulled back in free agency after some really bad blunders in past years, and it will be interesting to see if they pull back enough this year to earn 2018 comp picks. Potential: High

Arizona

Although the Cardinals franchise tagged their highest profile UFA in Chandler Jones, they have a long list of 18 other pending UFAs.  There is starting linebacker Kevin Minter and starting safety Tony Jefferson, intriguing role players in Andre Ellington, Alex Okafor, and DJ Swearinger, and old but reliable veterans in Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Chris Johnson, and AQ Shipley.  There are a lot of ways the Cardinals could earn 2018 compensatory picks in spite of tagging Jones. Potential: Very High

LA Rams

Trumaine Johnson somehow received a second franchise tag, so that leaves the Rams with only 8 pending UFAs to work with.  Still, there are some intriguing names among those 8.  TJ McDonald is another starting defensive back to keep an eye out for, and there’s also longtime Jeff Fisher favorite Kenny Britt no longer having Fisher’s vote of confidence behind him.  Greg Zuerlein is on the list again after completing his 1-year extension. Finally, there is the curious case of Case Keenum, who has now been displaced by Jared Goff.  Will Keenum be able to obtain even a general going rate for veteran backup quarterbacks that could yield a high comp pick?  Potential: Moderate

San Francisco

With Trent Baalke, a noted collector of comp picks, now gone, San Francisco’s regular appearance on the comp pick lists is uncertain.  Add in the second worst record in the league and the second highest amount of cap space (in both cases, second only to the Browns) and there’s good reason to believe that John Lynch could be more active in the CFA market than they were under Baalke. (Note that Colin Kaepernick will not become a CFA, even if he is listed as a UFA, as renegotiated player voids do not qualify the player as a CFA.)  Potential: Very Low

Seattle

John Schneider likes comp picks, but 2018 is shaping up to be a very poor year for him to pursue him.  The Seahawks have 14 pending UFAs, but the only starters are marginal ones like Bradley Sowell and Luke Willson, as well as kicker Steven Hauschka.  This may be a good year for Schneider to forgo compensatory picks in favor of improving the roster in free agency. Potential: Very Low

  • Dan Kunze

    Would Cutler qualify?

    • Nick

      Nope, he’d be cut if made available, and thus not be eligible for the compensatory formula.

      • Dan Kunze

        Ah that’s right duh. I think he only has like 43 years left on that contract.

        • Nick

          As a Broncos fan, it feels weird that both Cutler and (the other) Brandon Marshall have never been free agents, since it was so long ago since they started their careers in Denver.

          • Frank Yi

            It’s also weird to think Cutler and Marshall were once considered future cornerstone pieces on the team

        • Jim

          Bobby Bonilla?

  • Werner

    Could the 49ers have improved on the Kaepernick thing, if they had done this as a mutual option? They should better have taken whatever the trade market last year would have givem them, saved the cash and cap even after paying some severance package to CK and gone 0:16 or1:15 with Gabbert and Ponder to draft Garrett.

  • Werner

    Did Arrizona do a major blunder cutting Floyd ? They should have kept him to recover some bonus money once he was sentenced in court and disciplined by the NFL and could still have cut him later.

  • Werner

    Nick, any time to write an update after 1st wave of FA done ? Seems Patriots intentionally damaged their potential by going high for Gilmore and bringing Harmon back. Looks like Gilmore will bring a 3rd rounder to Buffalo