Evaluating 2016 Free Agent With Regard To 2017 Compensatory Picks

With the 2018 NFL season over, it’s time to go back three years and identify some teams that used 2016 free agency wisely or poorly with respect to the compensatory pick formula in 2017. For reference, you may find the list of the 2017 compensatory picks awarded here, and the cancellation charts for all 32 teams here. (Select the 2017 tabs on both pages.)

Buffalo

  • CFAs Lost (2): Nigel Bradham (6th), Ron Brooks (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (2): Zach Brown (7th), Lorenzo Alexander (7th)

The Bills likely did not anticipate having their 6th rounder for Bradham canceled out by Alexander, who at the time was on a minimum salary benefit contract. But the production that they have received from Alexander in the past three seasons (73.4% participation in the defensive snaps that includes 22 sacks) likely makes them content with that tradeoff. Alexander has since then signed two extensions with the Bills.

New England

  • CFAs Lost (2): Akiem Hicks (5th), Tavon Wilson (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (1): Shea McClellin (7th)

Before training camp, this cancellation chart looked far different for the Patriots. Likely seeing a year in which the team was not likely to make going for compensatory picks worth it, New England had also signed Terrance Knighton, Clay Harbor, Nate Washington, and Markus Kuhn as compensatory free agents. However, all of those players except for Harbor failed to make it out of training camp, and perhaps seeing a 5th rounder for Hicks in range, Harbor only made it to Week 4. Then again, the ending might not have been entirely happy for New England: Hicks has turned into a Pro Bowl player for the Bears, while the two players they turned the 5th round comp pick for him into via trade (James O’Shaughnessy and Conor McDermott) also failed to make it out of training camp. With full hindsight, the Patriots probably wish they had just kept Hicks.

New York Jets

  • CFAs Lost (3): Damon Harrison (3th), Chris Ivory (5th), Demario Davis (6th)
  • CFAs Gained (2): Steve McLendon (6th), Matt Forte (6th)

The Jets were very mindful of the compensatory formula rule that CFAs will be removed from consideration if they are cut before Week 10. They did exactly this with Jarvis Jenkins to get a 3rd rounder for Harrison, and then via trade turned that comp pick into three draft selections. Unfortunately for the Jets, Chad Hansen lasted only one season, while Jeremy Clark and Derrick Jones have not even yet contributed on special teams. Getting more shots at the draft is usually a good thing, but you can still miss with those shots.

Cleveland

  • CFAs Lost (6): Alex Mack (3rd), Mitchell Schwartz (4th), Tashaun Gipson (4th), Travis Benjamin (5th), Johnson Bademosi (7th), Craig Robertson (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (1): Demario Davis (6th)

In Sashi Brown’s first offseason as Browns GM, he started it off by heavily emphasizing compensatory pick acquisition. The problem with that strategy? Brown let some really good players walk. With their new teams, Mack and Schwartz have had multiple All-Pro honors, Gipson and Benjamin were regular contributors, while Bademosi and Robertson have been good special teamers. As for the four comp picks the Browns got, the 3rd was traded for Jamie Collins, both 4ths were gobbled up in multiple trades that ultimately contributed to the selection of Denzel Ward in 2018, and the 5th rounder, also part of a trade, was used on Roderick Johnson, who only spent one year in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh

  • CFAs Lost (5): Kelvin Beachum (3rd), Steve McLendon (6th), Sean Spence (7th), Valentino Blake (7th), Will Johnson (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (2): Ladarius Green (6th), Ryan Harris (7th)

The primary goal of preserving a 3rd rounder for Beachum was achieved. But the Steelers likely regret the two CFAs they did sign. Green was cut after one season due to an array of injuries that the team may not have fully vetted. Harris also spent most of 2016 on IR after coming over from the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, and then retired after that season.

Houston

  • CFAs Lost (3): Brandon Brooks (4th), Ben Jones (6th), Jared Crick (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (4): Brock Osweiler (3rd), Jeff Allen (4th), Lamar Miller (5th), Tony Bergstrom (7th)

The Osweiler signing was of course a spectacular disaster for the Texans. But neither Allen nor Bergstrom stuck long with the Texans either. Had the Texans restrained their CFA signings to just Miller, they could have had a 4th round comp pick for Brooks, who is still on his contract with his new team, as is Jones.

Denver

  • CFAs Lost (7): Brock Osweiler (3rd), Malik Jackson (4th), Danny Trevathan (5th), Evan Mathis (6th), David Bruton (7th), Vernon Davis (7th), Ryan Harris (7th)
  • CFAs Gained (3): Russell Okung (3rd), Donald Stephenson (6th), Jared Crick (7th)

The Broncos canceled out their potential 3rd rounder for Osweiler for a player in Okung that lasted only one season in Denver. But in the end, the Broncos merely deferred that comp pick, as they got a 3rd for Okung the next draft when they let him go to the Chargers. The bigger mistake by far by the Broncos was signing Stephenson, who made up part of a terrible right tackle rotation during his time in Denver.

Seattle

  • CFAs Lost (4): Russell Okung (3rd), Bruce Irvin (5th), JR Sweezy (6th), Brandon Mebane (6th)
  • CFAs Gained (2): Bradley Sowell (7th), J’Marcus Webb (7th)

The Seahawks did well for the top of their CFAs lost, but they could have done better to get comp picks for all of them. Sowell and Webb contributed mightily to the offensive line woes that Seattle sustained in 2016. Making matters worse is that the Seahawks cut Webb Week 12, two weeks too late for him not to count against their ledger in the compensatory formula.

Questions about this article? Reach Nick on Twitter at @nickkorte