When May 7th passed, the second Tuesday after the 2019 NFL Draft, it also closed out the addition of compensatory free agents (CFAs) into the formula for the 2020 NFL Draft. After waiting to gain knowledge of relevant contracts, we can now take a look at the 2020 compensatory picks list, with only CFA subtractions now possible due to cuts or too low of a salary.
Interest in comp pick accumulation continues to rise, as has been discussed frequently this offseason. 19 of the 32 comp picks slated to be awarded are in the 3rd or 4th round range, a high number in the entire history of compensatory picks, but a number that’s becoming a new normal in recent seasons. Most of the heavy comp pick hitters, such as the Ravens, Patriots, Eagles, Rams, Seahawks, and Broncos show up on this list, while even teams that traditionally place a low priority on comp picks, like the Bears or Redskins, also have comp picks at stake.
While there are currently nine 3rd round comp picks on the board, there is a chance that 2020 could break the record of eleven 3rd rounders awarded that was set in 2017. This is due to $11 million APY being forecast as very close to the 3rd/4th round cutoff. You’ll see two contracts at that APY on the list to the right: the Rams for Rodger Saffold and the Chargers for Tyrell Williams. With proper snap count boosts, both teams could see their current 4th rounders sneak into the 3rd round. This seems quite likely for Saffold, as starting offensive lineman regularly play nearly all possible offensive snaps, while Williams played in 3/4ths of the snaps last year with the Chargers.
The third possible beneficiary is Houston. While they already have one 3rd rounder on the board for Tyrann Mathieu, they could get a second 3rd rounder for Kareem Jackson. In order for that to happen, Jackson, at $11 million APY, would need to be valued in the 3rd round, while Bradley Roby, at $10 million APY, would need to stay in the 4th round. In this scenario, Roby would instead cancel out the 7th round valued contract of Kendall Lamm. This provides a potential avenue of strategy for the Texans. Should Jackson play a high level of snaps with the Broncos that gets him to the 3rd round level, the Texans could try limiting Roby’s snaps in situations where the outcome of the game is decided, or if Houston is locked into a playoff seed near the end of the regular season.
After researching details on their most recently expired contracts, there are two players that I am removing from OTC’s comp pick program because I think there is a very good change they will not count in the 2020 compensatory formula. Those two players are Mike Iupati, going from Arizona to Seattle, and Latavius Murray, going from Minnesota to New Orleans. In both cases, shortened contracts are the reason why I’m guessing they will not qualify. Both players renegotiated their contracts on the same day (March 15, two days into the 2018 league year) that altered the 2019 years to allow the contracts to expire one year earlier than planning at signing. There is precedent to suggest that these type of shortenings disqualify players from counting in the compensatory formula–Laveranues Coles in 2010 and Steven Jackson in 2014 are two examples.
I have higher confidence that Murray will not count as opposed to Iupati due to the difference in how the 2019 years were altered. In Iupati’s case, 2019 was turned into a void year, something that the Cardinals may have intentionally done as they later restructured $4 million of his remaining base salary to defer his cap hit. But for Murray, the Vikings outright deleted his 2019 year, resulting in $600,000 of his prorated signing bonus to accelerate from 2019 to 2018. AdamJT13, the pioneer of comp pick projection, observed that “[p]layers who have had contract years simply deleted — not converted to voidable years — by renegotiation have never qualified for the equation”.
|Team||Round||Compensated Free Agent||APY|
|Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded|
Names to watch in training camp
For the next few months, the most important thing to watch for with regard to 2020 compensatory picks is if any CFAs fail to make and stay on 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 2020 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.
Teams with CFAs signed
- Miami: Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a $5.5 million APY contract, but that happened before the team traded for Josh Rosen during the draft. Should Rosen beat out Fitzpatrick in camp, the Dolphins could pick up a 7th round comp pick for either Brandon Bolden or Frank Gore–or to preserve higher comp picks (see below). Miami would have to incur an additional $1.5 million cap and cash hit in 2019 in order to do so, however. Trading Fitzpatrick does not help for comp pick purposes, as they would still be charged with Fitzpatrick as a CFA gained.
- Baltimore: Justin Bethel‘s $2 million APY contract is easy to escape from, with only $1 million in resulting dead money that would be split between 2019 and 2020. If the Ravens cut Bethel before Week 10, they could pick up an additional 5th rounder for Terrell Suggs.
- Pittsburgh: Donte Moncrief signed a $4.5 million APY contract, but it is a backloaded contract of which the only guaranteed money, as is custom with the Steelers, is the $3.5 million signing bonus. Should Moncrief not perform as hoped, the Steelers could gain a modest amount of cap space by cutting him, and also open up a 7th round comp pick for LJ Fort–or more likely, as will be explained below, preserve their 3rd round comp pick for Le’Veon Bell.
- Kansas City: Damien Wilson and Bashaud Breeland could be cut with manageable amounts of resulting dead money ($2.555 million and $1.15 million). Once again, this could open up 7th round comp picks for Chris Conley or Spencer Ware, or preserve their 4th round comp pick for Steven Nelson.
- Dallas: The Cowboys, with an equal number of CFAs lost and gained, are currently only eligible for a net value 7th rounder that won’t make the 32 pick limit. There is a chance that George Iloka, signed for only $1.02 million, might not earn enough to qualify. But if he does, Dallas may be forced to cut him if they want to pick up a 5th round comp pick for Cole Beasley. The Cowboys have precedent in cutting players for comp pick reasons, as they did so last season with Deonte Thompson to pick up a 4th round comp pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
- Philadelphia: The Eagles currently have the greatest cancellation discrepancy, as the 4th round valued loss of Jordan Hicks is being cancelled out by a 7th round valued contract. Watch closely to see if LJ Fort or Andrew Sendejo contribute enough in Philadelphia to the point that the Eagles, a comp pick mindful team, would risk losing out on that 4th rounder.
- Washington: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came out of retirement just before the start of new league year, and was classified as an Unrestricted Free Agent. If the 33 year old cannot justify even his minimum salary benefit deal of $1.075 million, the Redskins could cut him and open up a 6th round comp pick for Ty Nsekhe.
- Chicago: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Mike Davis were signed for only $500,000 and $2 million in guaranteed money. If either were cut, the Bears could reopen a 5th round comp pick for Bryce Callahan, or help protect their 4th rounder for Adrian Amos.
- Tampa Bay: Like Dallas, they are stuck with a net value 7th due to having a equal number of CFAs lost and gained, and have high valued comp picks (a 3rd for Kwon Alexander and a 4th for Adam Humphries) cancelled out as a result. Unlike Dallas, the Bucs do not have quite as easy of a way to free up those comp picks. Deone Buchanon has no guaranteed money on his $2.5 million contract, so that’s a start. But after that, the Bucs would have to look at Bradley Pinion, who signed a four year contract that has $2.6 million in guarantees. It appears likely that Tampa Bay will be sacrificing a 3rd or 4th round comp pick on a high level punter deal, at a similar time to when they expended a 5th round pick on kicker Matt Gay.
Teams with CFAs lost
- Miami: As mentioned, the contracts of both Bolden and Gore make neither a lock to make the rosters of their new teams. If one of them get cut (or the 36 year old Gore retires), the Dolphins would be at risk for losing their 5th round comp pick for Cameron Wake. If both of their contracts were terminated, they could lose their 3rd rounder for Ja’Wuan James and be shut out of comp picks entirely.
- New England: LaAdrian Waddle and Chris Hogan both have contracts that can be easily terminated if they can’t prove their worth on a 53 player roster. For each one of them that got cut, the Patriots would lose a corresponding 6th round pick, unless they returned serve by cutting any of Bolden, Mike Pennel, or Terrence Brooks.
- Baltimore: Brent Urban was a late signing by Tennessee that reopened a 4th round comp pick to the Ravens for John Brown. But Urban gets cut, Baltimore may have to respond with cutting Bethel in order to preserve that 4th rounder.
- Pittsburgh: As explained above, the Eagles potentially have a comp pick reason of their own to cut Fort. If they do, and the Steelers don’t respond by cutting Moncrief, the Steelers could have the biggest risk in losing a comp pick, a 3rd rounder for Le’Veon Bell after all the difficult contract disputes they went through with him.
- Kansas City: Spencer Ware‘s contract with the Colts is certainly one that won’t guarantee him a roster spot. If he doesn’t make it in Indianapolis, the Chiefs would again see their potential 4th round comp pick for Steven Nelson cancelled out.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Jason Verrett signed a one year deal with San Francisco in an effort to prove that his injury past is behind him. If it’s not, and the 49ers move on before Week 10, the Chargers would lose their 4th rounder for Tyrell Williams.
- Philadelphia: As mentioned above, the Eagles may need to cut one of Fort or Sendejo to open up a 4th round comp pick for Jordan Hicks. But if Jordan Matthews got cut from San Francisco, they’d have to cut at least one of them to avoid losing another 4th rounder for Golden Tate, and both of them to get both 4th rounders.
- Chicago: The Bears have a wide array of CFAs lost (Eric Kush, Kevin White, and Josh Bellamy) on contracts that are not safe roster bets. They could quickly see themselves off the 2020 comp pick board, and given that historically the Bears do not care much for compensatory picks, they may not make the corresponding cuts mentioned above to get back on the board.
- Los Angeles Rams: CJ Anderson signed a contract with the Lions that only guaranteed him $450,000. If he doesn’t work out in Detroit, the Rams would lose one of their comp picks for Rodger Saffold or Lamarcus Joyner.