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Estimating The Number Of 2020 UDFAs For Each Team

Last Friday, Lions GM Bob Quinn observed the heightened challenges that undrafted free agents (UDFAs) will face this offseason due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Quinn also observed that his team will likely not have a huge number of UDFAs due to already having 78 players on the roster. Combine that with the nine draft pick the Lions currently hold, and it’s easy to do the math to see why Quinn comes to that prediction.

After reading that, I decided it would easy enough to calculate estimations on the number of UDFA signings for all 32 teams. The table below and to the left has very simple math: take the sum of current rostered players as estimated by OTC and draft picks each team holds, and subtract that from 90 to provide the estimated UDFA signings each team could make.

TeamCurrent Rostered PlayersCurrent # Of Draft PicksEstimated UDFA Signings
Chargers58725
Ravens57924
Rams61722
Titans62721
Falcons64620
Buccaneers64719
Cardinals66618
Panthers64818
Vikings601218
Saints69516
Bengals67716
Bears67716
Seahawks67716
Eagles66816
Packers641016
Chiefs70515
Browns68715
Cowboys70713
Bills70713
Patriots661212
Texans72711
Colts72711
Jaguars671211
Redskins73710
Giants701010
Steelers7668
49ers7875
Jets7785
Raiders7974
Lions7893
Broncos79101
Dolphins7814-2

Now, obviously these estimates will not be exact. Numerous trades will be executed during the draft that will change these numbers. Teams may also terminate the contracts of some currently rostered players to make room for more UDFAs than they currently have available. Nonetheless, these estimates can provide us some insight on what teams may be planning for UDFAs, both during and after the draft.

Teams With High Estimated UDFA Signings

  • By definition, these teams will have more roster space to sign higher numbers of UDFAs if they so choose.
  • However, there is a tradeoff: because Art. 7, §1(i) of the CBA greatly limits the amount of signing bonus money that may be offered to all UDFAs, that means that they may need to individually offer less signing bonus money to each UDFA if they spread out their pool. This could limit their ability to include high priority UDFAs among their rookie class.
  • These teams may also be candidates to trade down within the 2020 NFL Draft, in order to get more drafted players to fill out the roster.

Teams With Low Estimated UDFA Signings

  • Conversely by definition, these teams currently have limited roster space to sign UDFAs.
  • Also conversely, by signing fewer UDFAs, these teams may have a positive tradeoff by being able to offer those fewer UDFAs more signing bonus money. This could give them an advantage in outbidding other teams for high priority UDFAs
  • These teams may also be candidates to either trade up, or trade picks in the 2020 NFL Draft for ones in 2021 or later, so they don’t risk having to cut drafted rookies after training camp and the preseason.
  • Current fringe roster players on these teams may also be at a higher risk of being cut once the draft is over and terms have been agreed upon with UDFAs.

Should The Redskins & Giants Consider Drafting Tua Tagovailoa?

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals did something very rare: they used a 1st round pick in back to back drafts on quarterbacks–and in their case, two picks in the top ten. After drafting Josh Rosen 10th overall in 2018, they drafted Kyler Murray 1st overall in 2019. This has only happened two other times–one of them we’ll get to later, but the other had extremely unusual circumstances: 1982 draftee Art Schlichter was suspended for gambling, leading to the Baltimore Colts following up that selection with the (in)famous drafting of John Elway in 1983.

While nowhere near as extreme, the circumstances in Glendale may not have been strictly related to quarterback play. Steve Wilks was fired after only one season as head coach, and was replaced with Kliff Kingsbury, he of the Air Raid fame. The change of the offensive system led the Cardinals to bring in Murray, someone Kingsbury was familiar with in the Big 12 back in his Texas Tech coaching days, and to ship off Rosen to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd round pick. So far, this rare move has turned out better for the Cardinals: Murray was Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Rosen, coming off arguably the worst rookie season in at least 35 years, failed to hold off Ryan Fitzpatrick from the starting job in Miami in 2019.

Intuitively, the rarity of back to back 1st round quarterbacks by the same team seems straightforward: entering the NFL is a tough task, and teams want to give a quarterback the benefit of the doubt in his rookie season, hoping that he will significantly improve in his second season. However, after taking a glance at the excellent DYAR and DVOA statistics from Football Outsiders, this may be wishful thinking. Looking at its history of quarterback ratings going back to 1985, results like Rosen’s may be much closer to the rule than the exception; thus, perhaps drafting someone like Murray should the opportunity arise also should be more the rule than the exception.

And if that’s the case, as we approach the 2020 NFL Draft, it should leave two teams in a potentially similar situation–the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants–seriously considering drafting someone like Tua Tagovailoa.

The rarity of “false negatives”


In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants drafted Daniel Jones 6th overall, while the Redskins drafted Dwayne Haskins 15th overall. By DYAR and DVOA, both quarterbacks had very poor rookie seasons. Haskins was dead last in both measures among quarterbacks with at least 200 passes, at -443 and -42.0%. Jones wasn’t much better: at -256 and -19.2% he was respectively fourth worst and fifth worst.

This leads to the question as to how many “false negatives” at quarterback come out of the 1st round, where a quarterback who had a poor rookie season nonetheless was able to put together a good NFL career. What are the odds that Haskins and Jones can consistently bounce back from that rough start?

The table below shows all quarterbacks taken in the 1st round since 1985 that had either DYAR or DVOA that was worse than Jones’s 2019 numbers in the first year that they threw at least 200 passes, as well as their DYAR and DVOA in the subsequent three seasons, for a total of four seasons. Haskins and Jones are highlighted in teal. All blank cells indicate that the quarterback did not throw 200 or more passes in that season, with exceptions highlighted in yellow: Andre Ware and Dan McGwire never threw for 200 or more passes in any season, so their under 200 pass seasons are included.

PlayerDraft YearFirst SeasonSeason 1Season 2Season 3Season 4
DYARDVOADYARDVOADYARDVOADYARDVOA
Josh Rosen20182018-1145-53.7%TBDTBDTBDTBD
David Carr20022002-1130-47.4%83-7.0%258-3.2%-565-29.2%
Blaine Gabbert20112011-1009-46.5%-268-25.3%
Blake Bortles20142014-955-40.7%54-9.9%52-10.0%4080.3%
Jared Goff*20162016-881-74.8%112524.0%111417.0%5522.0%
Kelly Stouffer19871992-837-72.7%
Akili Smith19992000-700-51.4%
Ryan Leaf19981998-661-51.8%-539-35.5%
Matt Stafford*20092009-653-36.6%117014.9%116012.2%
Donovan McNabb*19991999-629-51.6%389-1.4%251-3.7%267-0.8%
Trent Dilfer19941995-559-31.0%-5-11.3%4495.2%-103-14.7%
Josh Allen20182018-534-35.9%-21-11.8%TBDTBDTBDTBD
Tim Couch19991999-478-28.4%-54-15.1%-421-24.7%98-7.9%
JP Losman20042005-451-41.5%65-9.0%
Dwayne Haskins20192019-443-42.0%TBDTBDTBDTBDTBDTBD
Christian Ponder20112011-404-31.5%173-6.1%-42-13.5%
Josh Freeman20092009-392-31.1%81613.9%-96-13.7%118-8.0%
Mark Sanchez20092009-382-26.5%212-4.3%-53-12.5%-593-29.4%
Kerry Collins19951995-369-23.8%69917.5%-393-26.0%-253-22.0%
Troy Aikman*19891989-299-26.7%-251-20.5%84122.5%124928.1%
Brandon Weeden20122012-291-19.4%-443-36.1%
Joey Harrington20022002-279-20.9%-250-18.2%41-9.9%-93-15.2%
Jake Locker20112012-265-23.6%69-5.7%-171-27.8%
Jamarcus Russell20072008-265-21.6%-834-62.0%
Daniel Jones20192019-256-19.2%TBDTBDTBDTBDTBDTBD
Tim Tebow20102011-221-22.7%
Kyle Boller20032003-220-26.0%-108-14.6%34-9.3%
Jeff George19901990-211-20.3%-581-28.6%-358-28.3%5368.5%
Brady Quinn20072009-207-22.8%-440-43.8%
Eli Manning*20042004-191-25.4%6326.0%5294.1%-190-16.4%
EJ Manuel20132013-190-19.9%-53-17.1%
Dan McGwire19911992-182-98.8%-287-50.9%
Vinny Testaverde19871987-153-24.4%-202-17.8%153-6.5%-16-11.8%
Steve Walsh19891989-138-20.6%110-5.9%40314.3%
Andre Ware19901990-54-36.5%-146-33.6%-138-53.7%

A quick, subjective look at that list of 35 quarterbacks does…not look good–including the observation that Rosen had the worst rookie quarterback DYAR ever. Among that list, there are five quarterbacks that a reasonable consensus could agree had at least decent NFL careers Those five, highlighted in green and marked with an asterisk, are as follows, in descending order from most to least recent:

  • Jared Goff, who had to suffer through Jeff Fisher’s last stand in the Rams’ return to Los Angeles before quickly logging four digit DYAR in his next two seasons upon the arrival of Sean McVay.
  • Matt Stafford, who suffered a rough rookie season in the year after the 0-16 Lions, and then had an injury filled second season before taking off considerably in Seasons 3 and 4.
  • Eli Manning, whose career was a roller coaster as a matter of DYAR and DVOA, but at least logged above average and above replacement in Seasons 2 and 3, and did of course win two Super Bowls.
  • Donovan McNabb, who hovered below average but at least above replacement after a rough rookie season before really taking off for three seasons, starting with his Super Bowl appearance season of 2004.
  • And finally, Troy Aikman, the only Hall of Famer on this list. But it’s at this moment that the final rarity of first round quarterbacks taken in consecutive drafts by a team shall be mentioned. In fact, Jimmy Johnson didn’t even bother seeing one down of Aikman’s rookie season before using the Cowboys’ 1990 1st round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft on Steve Walsh–who also is on this list. Therefore, among these quarterbacks, the only one whose team immediately used a 1st round pick on a competitor was the only one that made the Hall of Fame.

Pitting those five quarterbacks against the 30 others on the list that came before Haskins and Jones (although there is still some time to determine the ultimate fates of the likes of Rosen and Josh Allen), it translates into a 1 in 7 chance for the careers of Haskins and Jones to come out as good as the quarterbacks mentioned above–and a 1 in 35 chance of ascending all the way to Aikman’s level.

Where the Redskins and Giants are at

This leads us to the predicament the Redskins and Giants find themselves in for the 2020 NFL Draft. Both teams had terrible 2019 seasons–bottom six in overall DVOA, and bottom ten in offensive DVOA–contributing to records of 3-13 and 4-12, and being given the 2nd and 4th overall picks. That puts them in the position where highly regarded quarterbacks are considered.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Bengals take Joe Burrow 1st overall, the consensus next best available quarterback, one that has been mentioned as such well before any 2019 action in football, was Tua Tagovailoa. Now, just like any other quarterback entering the NFL from college, there is no guarantee on how he’ll perform, and you should not be drafting a quarterback that high if he’s deemed to not meet that value. And with Tagovailoa in particular, there is the added risk factor of his serious hip injury from last season. Furthermore, it would be painful to pass up on a highly regarded prospect at another position–like Chase Young, who, in the Redskins’ case, could easily go to a division rival in the Giants should they take a quarterback at 2nd overall.

However, if, after weighing all factors and coming to the determination that Tagovailoa has a very good chance to be a successful NFL quarterback, given the importance of the position it may behoove both the Redskins and Giants to at least consider indemnifying what they have now with Haskins and Jones with a prospect like Tagovailoa.

2021 Compensatory Picks Potential and Preview

The 2020 league year in the NFL may officially start on Wednesday, March 18, with the “legal tampering” period of free agency commencing two days before on Monday, March 16, the time when we would typically get first knowledge of the largest contracts to be signed. With those contracts signed come the generation of compensatory picks for the 2021 NFL Draft, thus it’s time to take a look at what comp pick potential teams might be looking at.

However, this will be one of the most unusual times of the year, for three reasons:

  1. This league year could either start with either the current collective bargaining agreement, or a brand new CBA. We will learn the fate of that question when voting by the NFLPA’s members concludes at the end of Saturday, March 14.
  2. With a new CBA comes new rules, and one of the most sweeping changes comes to the compensatory pick formula. These may be coming even if the proposed CBA is rejected by the NFLPA.
  3. Finally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could throw all kinds of unknown wrenches into the start of the new league year, up to and including a delay to its start.

Given those caveats, let’s proceed.

Reviewing the changes to the compensatory formula

At some point, I highly recommend reading Appendix V (as in the letter vee, not the number 5) of the proposed CBA, which for the first time publicly publishes the heart of the compensatory formula. Here are the important highlights to keep in mind:

UFAs must be valued within the top 35% instead of the top 50% to qualify as compensatory free agents (CFAs).

In my opinion, this will be by far the most consequential change to the compensatory formula. This will result in far few players becoming CFAs due to a low Average Per Year (APY) or low snap counts. If this 35% rule was applied to the 2020 comp picks, contracts would have needed to have an APY of about $2.3 million (instead of about $1 million for the 50% threshold). Therefore, for 2021 I would guess that the APY cutoff qualification would be something around $2.5 million, give or take some range in both directions for snap count adjustments. That will give teams much more flexibility in signing UFAs without the risk of them becoming CFAs that would otherwise cancel out their higher valued CFAs lost.

Teams may unilaterally designate some signings to be as an “Excluded UFA” that would disqualify a player to become a CBA.

The requirements for Excluded UFA designation would be that the player would have to sign a one year contract for a maximum of $1.75 million (an amount that will very lightly rise in later years of the CBA) that cannot be renegotiated until the conclusion of that team’s season.

While I expect teams to experiment with the Excluded UFA designation, as I read the entirety of Appendix V, in my opinion this new tool will be mooted by the 35% rule explained above, since contracts with an APY of $1.75 million or less will be well below the estimated $2.5 million cutoff of the 35% rule.

Players who sign Veteran (formerly Minimum) Salary Benefit (VSB) Deals will not become CFAs.

Again, I also expect this provision to be mooted by the 35% rule, as these contracts will have a value well below the approximate $2.5 million cutoff explained above.

Players who became UFAs due to declined options will no longer become CFAs.

OTC has been aware of this change for quite some time, and it was also codified in Appendix V.

The “Alan Faneca rule” does not apply to quarterbacks.

This refers to when the Steelers were taken by surprise when they got only a 5th round comp pick as a maximum for losing Alan Faneca instead of an expected 3rd, due to having ten or more accrued seasons. However, Appendix V says this rule, for whatever reason, does not apply to quarterbacks.

This exception to this rule will prove to be very consequential for this offseason, as there are quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and (very hypothetically) Drew Brees well over ten accrued seasons that could still sign very large deals elsewhere.

Even excepting quarterbacks, there are still a handful of other players subject to the Alan Faneca rule this offseason. They include Jason Peters, Jason Witten, Andrew Whitworth, Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Workout bonuses, performance incentives, and salary escalators will now count in the compensatory formula.

These devices were sometimes used to circumvent the compensatory formula by artificially lowering a player’s APY, and abuse of this circumvention like what the Eagles recently did may have resulted in this rule change.

According to Appendix V, the types of these payments that will count will be those “that are earned by the player in the first League Year of the contract, or that are considered “likely to be earned,” either upon execution of the contract, or as the result of the year-end netting of incentives”. Since Not Likely To Be Earned incentives might still not count, and make up the grand majority of such possible payments, there may still be some leeway for teams to manipulate APY, but they will be limited.

How OTC’s 2021 compensatory pick projection will operate

  • If the proposed CBA is approved, the program will unquestionably run on all new rules in Appendix V, most critically disqualifying UFAs from becoming CFAs that are not in the top 35% of leaguewide players.
  • If the proposed CBA is rejected, the program will still run on the Appendix V rules, but will make a special note of UFAs in the 35% to 50% range, as well as VSB contracts, indicating that they may be possible CFAs.
  • Workout bonuses and LTBE incentives will be included, and adjustments will be made near the end of the regular season for any salary escalators or NTLBE incentives that were earned. Since this is a new provision, the margin of error here will be greater than usual.

Now that you know about the many changes that lie ahead, let’s take a look at each of the 32 teams.

2021 Compensatory Pick Potential

Buffalo Bills

With Quinton Spain recently extended and Jordan Phillips the only other one of their 12 pending UFAs logging more than half of the snaps, they should expect very little action that would generate possible comp picks. Potential: Very Low

Miami Dolphins

Their roster was stripped down to the studs last season, and it shows with only 7 pending UFAs, the most notable being Aqib Talib, who they acquired as a salary dump. No team should expect less here than Miami. Potential: Very Low

New England Patriots

Where Tom Brady plays in 2020 has been the hottest question approaching this offseason. If it’s not in New England, Brady will be a prime 3rd round compensatory pick candidate for the Patriots despite playing accruing well over ten seasons, due to being a quarterback. But it doesn’t end there: Joe Thuney, Devin McCourty, Ted Karras, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Phillip Dorsett are all other pending UFAs who could get CFA-caliber contracts. The Patriots have received multiple 3rd round comp picks and the max of four comp picks in the past two seasons, and that could easily become three in a row. Potential: Very High

New York Jets

Robby Anderson will be the leading candidate here, although there is word that he has interest in staying with the Jets. Three starters from the 2019 offensive line–Kelvin Beachum, Alex Lewis, and Brandon Shell–are also among their high number of 21 pending UFAs, along with edge rusher Jordan Jenkins. However, with high cap space they could easily sign as much or more as they lose, especially if they retain Anderson. Potential: Low

Baltimore Ravens

Matt Judon appears to be a likely franchise tag candidate, so beyond him, the Ravens would have to look at Michael Pierce, Patrick Onwuasor, Jimmy Smith, or Josh Bynes to continue their comp pick collecting habits. Few of them stand out, so while their reputation says they’ll be mindful of their ledger, it also wouldn’t be the worst time for them to take a momentary pause from comp picks and sign some external CFAs if the above players do not sign for much elsewhere. Potential: Moderate

Cincinnati Bengals

With AJ Green as another likely franchise tag candidate, there is little beyond him: perhaps Andrew Billings, Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard, or Nick Vigil. The Bengals’ modus operandi of free agency generally allows them to naturally collect comp picks, but coming off a league worst record in 2019 the interest may be colder than typical. Potential: Low

Cleveland Browns

Among only six practical pending UFAs, Joe Schobert is the only one expected to land a big deal elsewhere. If Schobert is the only CFA they end up losing, they’d have to abstain from signing CFAs from elsewhere, and that seems unlikely in their position. Potential: Very Low

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bud Dupree leads another short list of 8 pending UFAs, and he’s one that could also be tagged. Beyond that, Javon Hargrave may be the only other notable name there. Artie Burns and Sean Davis have not lived up to their draft status, and Tyler Matakevich is a strict special teamer that will likely not sign a contract large enough to qualify as a CFA under the new rules. If the Steelers let Dupree walk they could try to hold back to ensure a high comp pick for him, like they did for Le’Veon Bell last offseason, but otherwise they could be another team suited to take a break and pursue external CFAs. Potential: Low

Houston Texans

DJ Reader has been getting much buzz as a high priority UFA that should be a high CFA candidate as well. Bradley Roby will try to improve on his one year, prove it deal that he signed with Houston last offseason. With 14 pending UFAs in total they could get some padding elsewhere from others signing small CFA-caliber deals. The primary goal for Houston may be to preserve just a high comp pick for Reader if he leaves. Potential: Moderate

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Castonzo is the leading name here, and while he’ll be coming back for another season, it appears more likely that’ll he’ll be re-signed by the Colts. After Castonzo, there are similarly older candidates like Jabaal Sheard, Dontrelle Inman, and (of course) Adam Vinatieri, and younger talent in transition such as Eric Ebron, Clayton Geathers, and Chester Rogers. Overshadowing all of this, however, is a very high amount of cap space and a need at quarterback at the Colts that may drown out all of this. Potential: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars

Yannick Ngakoue is the only notable CFA candidate among the Jaguars, and he’s a likely franchise tag candidate. Add that to a franchise that has struggled since their 2017 AFC Championship appearance, and it’s likely that they’ll have more work to do in unrestricted free agency than on the comp pick front. Potential: Very Low

Tennessee Titans

They can’t tag all of Ryan Tannehill, Jack Conklin, and Derrick Henry, and whoever of them is able to hit the open market should generate high comp pick worthy deals. So should Marcus Mariota even on a backup QB deal. Logan Ryan playing 99% of the snaps in 2019 could also draw interest, as well as Tajae Sharpe. The Titans are well poised to strive for comp picks if they so choose. Potential: Very High

Denver Broncos

Justin Simmons will likely get extended or franchise tagged, but beyond him the Broncos have plenty of CFA worthy candidates to consider. Lead among them is Chris Harris Jr., a likely departure after trading for AJ Bouye. So too are defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris, center Connor McGovern, and backup safety Will Parks can’t be counted out for a possible starter level contract elsewhere. While the Broncos aren’t shy about participating in unrestricted free agency when needed–and it likely will be if they lose the above players–they also are sharp at making sure comp picks are not neglected at the same time. Potential: High

Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones will likely be tagged, but beyond him the Chiefs still have 18 pending UFAs to work with. Among them are cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland, edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. The Chiefs may not generate a high quality of comp picks if they retain, or tag and trade, Jones, but as Super Bowl champions they could also possibly see some of their UFAs overpaid on the market. Potential: Moderate

Las Vegas Raiders

They have a high quantity of pending UFAs at 17, but the quality is low. Daryl Worley and Karl Joseph are the only ones that played more than 50% of the snaps in 2019, and they were part of a defensive backfield that struggled mightily. As a franchise that generally doesn’t care much about comp picks, I don’t see that changing much this offseason: Potential: Very Low

Los Angeles Chargers

With the Chargers announcing that Philip Rivers will enter free agency, that will position them to garner a likely 3rd round comp pick due to the revelation that all quarterbacks, even those with more than ten accrued seasons, can garner one. Melvin Gordon will also be looking for the big payday he’s struggled to gain as a running back. Even if the Chargers tag Hunter Henry, other players that could be CFA candidates are Adrian Phillips, Damion Square, and Michael Schofield. The comp picks are there for the taking for the Chargers if they want them. Potential: High

Dallas Cowboys

More well known than the Titans’ situation, the Cowboys have their own three trio of top tier players in Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones that they cannot tag all three of. Whoever of them is allowed to hit the open market will put the Cowboys in prime position for comp pick returns. Combine this with other players like Jason Witten, Maliek Collins, and Jeff Heath among a very long list of 24 pending UFAs, and Dallas is situated quite well in this department. Potential: Very High

New York Giants

The Giants traded for Leonard Williams despite his status of being on the final year of his contract. Should they not work out an extension, a tag could be in play for him. Markus Golden, who logged 10 sacks on a one year deal in New York, could also get interest around the league. With Eli Manning retired, the remainder of the Giants’ pending UFAs might not be in CFA territory, but there is enough for them to work with if they so choose. Potential: Moderate

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have an eclectic mix of pending UFAs: the longtime vets in Josh McCown, Jason Peters, and Vinny Curry, and younger transitional talent Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Timmy Jernigan, and Nelson Agholor. With compensation for losing Peters capped at the fifth round, there may not be much top level quality here, but good mid level quantity that could keep Philadelphia’s reputation as being a comp pick heavy team going. Potential: High

Washington Redskins

Brandon Scherff is the leading candidate but could get extended or tagged. If that happens, then Case Keenum might be the only remaining potential CFA, as even as backups quarterbacks can get CFA caliber contracts. The Redskins have shown a little recent interest in comp picks, but traditionally that has not been the case for them, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they reverted to tradition this offseason. Potential: Low

Chicago Bears

With Danny Trevathan extended, the focus shifts to fellow linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski, who has reportedly been drawing interest leaguewide. But much like the Redskins, beyond him the only potential CFA may be backup quarterback Chase Daniel, and they are also another team that historically does not care for comp picks, even if they went out of character last year by cutting Mike Davis to get a 4th round comp pick. Potential: Low

Detroit Lions

A’Shawn Robinson is a young interior defensive lineman that could get some attention, as well as center Graham Glasgow. Lingering veterans like Rashaan Melvin or Tavon Wilson could still find homes in the league, too. The question is whether Detroit will stand pat with their own players instead of pursuing external CFAs after coming off a bad season. Potential: Low

Green Bay Packers

Blake Martinez is another linebacker that’s rumored to have leaguewide interest. Longtime right tackle Bryan Bulaga is the type of player that the Packers of the past would clearly let walk for a comp pick. Peripheral players like Geronimo Allison or Kyler Fackrell could also be in play as CFAs. Under Ted Thompson, the Packers would have been determined to get comp picks for all of them, but Brian Gutekunst has shown no need to hold back in free agency just for that reason. We’ll see which way Gutekunst decides to lean in 2020. Potential: Moderate

Minnesota Vikings

Safety Anthony Harris leads a group of possible CFA candidates in the defensive backfield that also includes cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. With 17 total pending UFAs on a team strapped for cap space, the Vikings could be comp pick recipients just on that basis alone. Potential: High

Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper will be a prime CFA candidate if he is allowed to hit the open market. Behind him are players like De’Vondre Campbell and Vic Beasley that will try to find good vested veteran contracts, and older veterans like Jack Crawford or Adrian Clayborn that could catch on elsewhere. Much like the Vikings, the Falcons are tight for cap space, and those combinations could put them on the comp pick board. Potential: High

Carolina Panthers

Tre Boston and James Bradberry are high snap level defensive backs that could draw attention. Daryl Williams will try to recover his stock after coming back from injury. Older vet Gerald McCoy could see another good contract due to his draft pedigree. The big question surrounding the Panthers is that this is a team in transition after moving from Ron Rivera to Matt Rhule. That could indicate either a build through the draft that generates comp picks, or a build through unrestricted free agency that doesn’t. Potential: Moderate

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees would be the leading CFA candidate here by far if he left New Orleans, but no one thinks that he will. But even putting Brees aside, there is his backup in Teddy Bridgewater that will hope he can finally get that starter level, 3rd round comp pick valued contract elsewhere. There are three defensive backs in Vonn Bell, PJ Williams, and Eli Apple all hitting the market. There is first round pick Andrus Peat could could get a good deal based on that reputation. And there are a total of 17 pending UFAs, putting Brees aside. No team cares less about comp picks than the Saints, but if any year could break their drought, this would be the one. Potential: Very High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It appears unlikely that the Bucs will let one of the best stories of the NFL in Shaq Barrett hit the open market. First overall pick Jameis Winston, however, could be another story, and if he’s allowed to leave he stands to possibly generate a 3rd round comp pick valued contract even on a one year prove it deal. The tradeoff, of course, is that the Bucs would have to replace Winston, and they may very well do so by signing a quarterback of their own to a 3rd round comp pick contract. Thus, if Barrett and Winston are out of the picture one way or another, the Bucs would need to rely on the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, and Peyton Barber to get them by. Definitely plenty to work with there if the Bucs so choose. Potential: Moderate

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have a high quantity of pending UFAs at 21, but thanks to the DJ Humphries extension that quality is low. With the new 35% qualification rule, the Cardinals may see few of those players qualify as CFAs even if they do get attention from the rest of the league. Potential: Low

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ pending number of UFAs are low at 10, but they have notable names among that small group. Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler, Jr. will be the young players leading the way, while older players like Andrew Whitworth, Michael Brockers, and Greg Zuerlein can’t be counted out. The Rams have shown mindfulness with going after comp picks, and cramped cap space due to previous large contract could push them in that direction. Potential: High

San Francisco 49ers

Arik Armstead is by far the leading candidate here, but he could be a likely tag candidate for that reason. Beyond him, they’re looking at players like Jimmie Ward or Emmanuel Sanders as possible CFAs. Their cap space is also on the low end so they could be in play for a comp pick or two even if the quality and quantity doesn’t end up comparing to some other teams. Potential: Moderate

Seattle Seahawks

First overall pick Jadeveon Clowney leads the way among a bevy of defensive linemen hitting unrestricted free agency that also includes Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson. Opposite from them on the line, Germain Ifedi and George Fant will try to find decent vested veteran deals elsewhere. Those players front a group of 19 pending UFAs that will likely keep Seattle’s reputation as a leading comp pick garnering team going. Potential: High

Declined Team Options Will No Longer Allow Players To Become Compensatory Free Agents

One of the odd quirks of the NFL’s complicated compensatory pick formula is that if a contract includes a team option on a future year of the contract, and the team declines that option, making the player an unrestricted free agent, that player would qualify as a compensatory free agent (CFA) in the team’s favor.

This quirk has never made sense with regard to the spirit of the idea behind compensatory picks: that teams should be compensated for players that they lose beyond their control. For example, this has been consistent with regard to any contract that was terminated, or if a team declines to offer a restricted free agent tender–in each case, the team had a way to keep the player if they so wanted to. In practice, the team also has the same choice when declining a team option, but the compensatory formula still counted it. Historically, the teams that have exploited this loophole are the Patriots, Broncos, and Ravens, and in recent years the 49ers under John Lynch and the Eagles under Howie Roseman have also been exceptionally aggressive about it.

But this is coming to an end. A source informs OTC’s Brad Spielberger that players who have their team options declined will no longer qualify as compensatory free agents.

While this is a big change for projecting future compensatory picks, there are a few additional facets, some of which may still cast questions on how this rule change will be handled.

First, this rule changes does not apply to players on first round rookie contracts that had their fifth year option declined. This is likely because, unlike the problematic team options described above that are singularly negotiated between a player and a team, these fifth year options are mandated leaguewide by Art. 7, §7 of the CBA.

Second, it is unclear precisely when this rule change occurred. It is clear that the rule change did not affect the 2018 compensatory picks, as Denver got a 3rd rounder after declining Russell Okung’s option. But I was unable to find a similar example among the 2019 comp picks. For the time being, we believe that the best guess is at the start of the 2019 league year on March 13.

For the upcoming 2020 comp picks projection, the only player that could be affected by this rule change is Nick Foles. However, his situation is complex. Philadelphia actually exercised his team option, but then Foles immediately countered that move by declining his own player option, becoming a free agent. I will not be changing my projection that the loss of Foles will earn the Eagles a 3rd round comp pick, but I will add a note in my projection in case I’m wrong.

Finally, it is also unclear whether contracts signed before whenever the rule change was made will be granted a grandfather clause by the compensatory formula. The answer to this question may alter the plans of some teams as to how they want to handle the contracts of players with upcoming team options.

The following is a list of players that have team options on their upcoming contracts. Option deadlines highlighted in yellow are ones that for the 2020 year of that contract. We will have to keep a close eye on whether or not these contracts have their options declined or not as we get closer to the start of the 2020 league year, and make a special case as to whether or not these players will qualify as CFAs if their options are declined.

PlayerTeamDate SignedOption DeadlineOption Year(s)
Von MillerBroncos7/15/20163/17/20202020
Von MillerBroncos7/15/20163/9/20212021
Vance McDonaldSteelers12/9/20163/17/20202020
Vance McDonaldSteelers12/9/20163/9/20212021
Ronald LearyBroncos3/10/20173/17/20202020
Kyle Juszczyk49ers3/10/20173/17/20202020
Brandon CarrRavens3/16/20173/17/20202020
Brandon McManusBroncos9/11/20173/17/20202020
K’Waun Williams49ers9/29/20173/17/20202020
Daniel KilgoreDolphins2/14/20183/17/20202020
Jerick McKinnon49ers3/1/20183/9/20212021
Start of 2018 League Year
Todd DavisBroncos3/14/20183/17/20202020
Weston Richburg49ers3/14/20183/9/20212021
Weston Richburg49ers3/14/20183/8/20222022
Nickell Robey-ColemanRams3/15/20183/17/20202020
Dontari PoePanthers3/18/20183/15/20202020
Jarius WrightPanthers3/20/20183/17/20202020
Cameron ErvingChiefs9/4/20183/17/20202020
Jarrod WilsonJaguars1/21/20192/25/20202020
Bobby MassieBears1/31/20193/19/20212021
Bobby MassieBears1/31/20193/15/20212022-2023
Spencer LongBills2/12/20193/17/20202020
Spencer LongBills2/12/20193/13/20212021
Marcell DareusJaguars2/26/20192/25/20202020
Matt SchaubFalcons3/5/20192/25/20202020
Isaac SeumaloEagles3/5/20194/2/20202022-2024
Jason KelceEagles3/5/20193/27/20202021
Brandon GrahamEagles3/11/20194/2/20202021-2023
Eric WeddleRams3/11/20193/17/20202020
Brett KernTitans3/11/20193/12/20212021-2022
Start of 2019 League Year
Nigel BradhamEagles3/13/20193/17/20202020
Nigel BradhamEagles3/13/20193/12/20212021
Nigel BradhamEagles3/13/20193/12/20222022
Adrian PetersonRedskins3/14/20192/25/20202020
Jason McCourtyPatriots3/14/20193/17/20202020
Jamize OlawaleCowboys3/14/20193/17/20202020-2021
DeSean JacksonEagles3/14/20193/22/20202021
Ja’Wuan JamesBroncos3/15/20193/12/20222022
Cameron FlemingCowboys3/15/20193/17/20202020
Mark Nzeocha49ers3/15/20193/12/20212021
Chris ConleyJaguars3/16/20192/25/20202020
Chris ReedPanthers3/19/20193/17/20202020
Robbie Gould49ers7/14/201912/31/20202021-2022
Damon HarrisonLions8/22/20193/15/20212021

New OTC Features: Valuation Diamond, Games Missed Data, & Injury Adjusted Valuations

I’m happy to introduce several additions and updates to Over The Cap that have been much time in the making. Let’s jump right in to explain what’s new.

(more…)

Projecting The 2020 Compensatory Picks

UPDATE – January 8: This projection has been revised to account for a correction to the qualification of Mike Iupati. Please read more here.

UPDATE 2 – January 31: With the news that declined options may no longer allow players to become compensatory free agents, an additional note has been made on the possibility of alterations to this projection. Please read more here.

This article refers specifically to OTC’s projection for the 2020 NFL Draft’s compensatory picks. For details on the basics and methodology of projecting compensatory picks in general, please reference this article.

To understand how this projection is generated for each team, please reference the compensatory picks cancellation charts here.

The Projection

TeamRoundCompensated Free AgentAPY
NE3Trey Flowers$18,000,000
NYG3Landon Collins$14,000,000
NE3Trent Brown$16,250,000
SEA3Earl Thomas$13,750,000
HOU3Tyrann Mathieu$14,000,000
PIT3Le’Veon Bell$13,125,000
PHI3Nick Foles$22,000,000
BAL4C.J. Mosley$17,000,000
LAR4Rodger Saffold$11,000,000
MIN4Sheldon Richardson$11,933,333
TB4Kwon Alexander$13,500,000
PHI4Jordan Hicks$9,000,000
WAS4Jamison Crowder$9,500,000
MIA4Ja’Wuan James$12,750,000
SEA4Justin Coleman$9,000,000
CHI4Adrian Amos$8,500,000
BAL4John Brown$9,000,000
PHI4Golden Tate$9,350,000
DEN5Billy Turner$7,000,000
DAL5Cole Beasley$7,250,000
NE6Malcom Brown$5,000,000
NE6Cordarrelle Patterson$5,000,000
SEA6Shamar Stephen$4,150,000
NYG7Mario Edwards$2,500,000
HOU7Kendall Lamm$2,225,000
HOU7Christian Covington$1,687,500
MIA7Brandon Bolden$1,850,000
DEN7Max Garcia$1,796,875
MIN7Trevor Siemian$2,000,000
MIN7Tom Compton$1,600,000
DEN7Tramaine Brock$1,325,000
NYG7Josh Mauro$1,300,000
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
NYG7Kerry Wynn$1,212,500

Note that although there are 33 eligible compensatory picks listed in this projection, each year only exactly 32 picks are awarded. Therefore, the pick that ranks 33rd is not awarded, although the official release will typically acknowledge presence of any comp picks in excess of 32, as this list does with strikethrough text.

Compensatory picks became tradeable beginning with the 2017 NFL Draft. This year, there has been one such trade thus far, with the Texans sending a 3rd round comp pick to the Browns for Duke Johnson–although it may be unclear as to which pick is sent to Cleveland should the Texans receive two 3rd round comp picks.

I expect the official release to come out on February 21, the Friday before the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Releasing the list then is sensible, as it allows executives at the Combine to discuss possible trades with full knowledge of their draft capital.

Cutoff Projections

It was suggested via the resolution allowing comp picks to be traded on December 2, 2015 that the cutoffs between each rounds and whether or not a player had an APY high enough to qualify was determined by a “rank[ing] against all players in the League who are on rosters at the end of the season”. I have conjectured from this evidence that the cutoffs are based on a percentile system. After refining the OTC’s program following the official release of the 2017 compensatory picks, it’s my guess that the percentiles operate on even percentages divisible by five, as illustrated in the table below.

The most difficult part of projecting the compensatory picks is accurately identifying where these cutoffs lie. That is because the larger subset of the leaguewide players of which the smaller subset of compensatory free agents are judged against is never the same size, and requires accurately tracking roster transactions for thousands of players–a feat that will always have a margin of error.

At the end of the 2019 regular season, OTC’s database identified a total of 1,958 players that were either on the active roster or reserve lists, and had also been on a roster for at least 10 games during the 2019 regular season. As explained in the general methodology in the previous link, the cutoffs for each round and for qualifying as a compensatory free agent (CFA) have been established by this projection on certain percentile ranks of all players on the active roster and reserve lists at the end of the regular season, sorted by APY adjusted for snap counts in descending order and also represented by the player at the cutoff point. For 2019, these cutoffs are as follows:

RoundPercentileOverall RankRepresentative Player
3rd/4th95th (top 5%)99Trumaine Johnson
4th/5th90th (top 10%)197Eddie Goldman
5th/6th85th (top 15%)295Solomon Thomas
6th/7th75th (top 25%)491Robby Anderson
7th/Qualify50th (top 50%)980Chuma Edoga

A change in the cutoff calculation at the top

After reviewing the previous five seasons of compensatory pick projections, it is my belief that in the past, I incorrectly calculated the APY of players leaguewide whose contracts were extended. I believe this error was most grievous in 2018, a draft in which I projected too many 3rd round comp picks to be awarded. By correcting this possible error, the most significant change is that more players have jumped ahead in order of the compensatory free agents from the 2019 offseason, particularly in the 3rd round. That means that several players whose contracts I initially projected as 3rd rounders may instead only be 4th rounders. While I hope that I’m correct in making this correction, I don’t have the highest confidence in that, and I could be wrong, which would restore several previously projected 3rd round comp picks.

Players On The Cutoff Bubbles

While it is my hope that my projection of where the cutoffs lie is correct, there is enough of a margin of error that the players that are very close to them may fall on the opposite side of where I have them projected. In most cases, if I’m wrong it means that the team in question will still get a comp pick for that player, but that it may be in a round higher or lower. But in a few cases (those are bolded), it could change cancellations, possibly taking away or greatly devaluing a projected comp pick—or possibly adding or greatly upgrading a comp pick.

3rd/4th

  • Nick Foles (Philadelphia): #86
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #99
  • CJ Mosley (Baltimore): #101
  • Rodger Saffold (Los Angeles Rams): #107
  • Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota): #112
  • Kareem Jackson (Houston): #119
  • Kwon Alexander (Tampa Bay): #134

4th/5th

  • John Brown (Baltimore): #187
  • Golden Tate (Philadelphia): #189
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #195

5th/6th

  • Projected 5th/6th cutoff: #295
  • Cameron Wake (Miami): #309

6th/7th

  • None (Projected 6th/7th cutoff: #491)

7th/Qualifying

  • None (Projected 6th/7th cutoff: #980)

Qualifying/Valuation Questions

The level at which teams are becoming more mindful of compensatory picks has reached new highs. This once again includes the rule where compensatory free agents will not qualify if they are not on their roster past Week 10 (this year, the Sunday games took place on November 10). This year, notable cuts right before this date include LJ Fort (cut by Philadelphia September 27), Deone Bucannon (cut by Tampa Bay October 9), Justin Bethel (cut by Baltimore October 21–and acknowledged by John Harbaugh as comp picks being the reason why), Donte Moncrief (cut by Pittsburgh November 2), Andrew Sendejo (cut by Philadelphia November 5), and Mike Davis (cut by Chicago November 9).

While I have high confidence that all these players, among others cut before Week 10, will not qualify, two that will be specifically noted in the altering scenarios below will be Moncrief and Davis. That’s because both were claimed off waivers by the Panthers, thus spending more than 10 weeks on NFL rosters. The precedent of Martellus Bennett not qualifying in 2018 makes me believe that Moncrief and Davis will not qualify, but because that’s the only precedent I have on record, it’s safe to note what would happen if I’m wrong–and it would be bad news for Pittsburgh and/or Chicago.

There are two players that I am guessing will not qualify to become compensatory free agents due to having their previous contracts shortened via renegotiation. On March 16, 2018, Latavius Murray and the Vikings renegotiated his contract that included deleting the 2019 year, allowing him to become a free agent one year earlier. Murray subsequently signed with New Orleans on March 12, 2019. Similarly, on March 15, 2018, Mike Iupati and the Cardinals renegotiated his contract that including voiding his 2019 year for salary cap proration purposes. Iupati subsequently signed with Seattle on March 14, 2019. If I am wrong about either or both of these players not qualifying, it will change the comp picks awarded to Minnesota and/or Seattle.

UPDATE – January 8: I now believe that my initial analysis of Iupati’s renegotiation is incorrect.

A source that OTC considers reliable informs us that Iupati will indeed qualify as a compensatory free agent. The reason why is that Iupati’s renegotiation occurred immediately before the start of the 2018 league year, despite being first reported in the media immediately after the start of the new league year. The explanation is that renegotiations that shorten a contract only disqualify a player from becoming a CFA if the shortening causes the contract to expire in the same league year that the renegotiation occurred. If true, this would help better explain why Adrian Peterson qualified as a CFA in favor of Minnesota in 2018 despite shortening his contract via renegotiation, as that renegotiation happened well before this cited cutoff date of the start of the new league year.

A similar question regarding void years was raised with Alex Okafor, who went from New Orleans to Kansas City as an unrestricted free agent. In Okafor’s case, a late renegotiation in his two year deal with the Saints transformed a player option to void the second year should Okafor log three or more sacks to an automatic void. I am guessing that Okafor will qualify as a CFA because the void year existed in the original contract, and was not created via renegotiation. If I’m wrong about that, it will help out the Chiefs’ comp pick standing.

UPDATE – January 31: There is now doubt on whether players who arrived to free agency via declined options now qualify as compensatory free agents. You may learn more about this doubt here.

As far as the projection for the 2020 comp picks go, the only player possibly affected by this potential rule change that is relevant to the results is Nick Foles. However, his situation is complex. Philadelphia actually exercised his team option, but then Foles immediately countered that move by declining his own player option, becoming a free agent. Due to this complexity, and the fact that Foles was able to leave Philadelphia against the Eagles’ will, I am still projecting that Philadelphia will get a 3rd round comp pick for losing him. But this new discovery means that there’s a chance that I could be wrong.

Possible Altering Scenarios

  • Chicago
    • If Mike Davis qualifies, Chicago will not get a 4th for Adrian Amos.
  • Houston
    • If Kareem Jackson’s contract is valued in the 3rd round, Houston will get a 3rd for him instead of a 7th for Kendall Lamm.
  • Kansas City
    • If Alex Okafor does not qualify, Kansas City will get a 4th for Steven Nelson.
  • Miami
    • If Cameron Wake’s contract is valued in the 5th round, Miami will get a 5th for him instead of a 7th for Brandon Bolden.
  • Minnesota
    • If Latavius Murray qualifies, Minnesota will get a 6th or a 7th for him.
  • Philadelphia
    • If Nick Foles does not qualify, Philadelphia will not get a 3rd for him.
  • Pittsburgh
    • If Donte Moncrief qualifies, Pittsburgh will not get a 3rd for Le’Veon Bell.
  • Seattle
    • If Mike Iupati does not qualify, Seattle will get a 7th for Brett Hundley.