A Comment On Compensatory Picks And The Transition Tag

Now that the deluge of free agency signings is behind us, this gives me a moment to comment on something that was discussed during that deluge.  The Dolphins rescinded the transition tag that they had originally placed on Olivier Vernon.  Adam Schefter generating the prevailing reason among the media as to why:

I was actually worried about the opposite: that a player whose transition tag was rescinded would not qualify as a CFA.  Before Vernon, there was no known precedent for such a move. However, in the NFL’s official press release on free agency, Vernon was listed as a Miami UFA, so we have every reason to believe he will qualify as a CFA. And indeed, he’s currently slated to get the Dolphins the second-highest comp pick, a 3rd round pick right behind Brock Osweiler for the Broncos.

However, I’m not so sure if the Dolphins needed to worry about rescinding the transition tag. That’s because there is precedent to suggest that transition tagged players qualify as CFAs. That precedent was from 2007, when Steve Hutchinson qualified in the aftermath of the infamous poison pill war between the Seahawks and Vikings.  However, Schefter is one of the most respected insiders in the NFL, so it bears considering if the rule on transition tagged players has changed since 2007, perhaps as part of the change to the CBA.  While I can’t say for sure, I wonder if perhaps the Dolphins inquired to the league office about what consequences their actions regarding Vernon would occur with regards to compensatory picks.

The good news is that we should get a definitive answer on this question in a few weeks–and if there’s a change, that could be even better news for the Buffalo Bills. That’s because last offseason, they signed transition tagged Charles Clay to an offer sheet that the Dolphins did not match. In my final 2016 compensatory picks projection (in which I have Clay qualifying), I did not list Buffalo as getting any picks, but did make a note that they have a very good chance to get a 6th round comp pick for CJ Spiller if Alex Carrington does not qualify.  But if Clay does not qualify, he will change the cancellation chart for the Bills even more favorably.  If Clay, with a 4th round value, is removed from the chart, it will open up a respective 4th or 5th round comp pick for Da’Norris Searcy (as he is on the bubble between the two rounds).

So suffice to say, the Bills could have a wide array of compensatory pick scenarios for the 2016 NFL draft.  They could get nothing, or they could get 4th and 6th round picks.