Why The Patriots Would Use The May 9 Tender On LeGarrette Blount For Compensatory Pick Purposes

Jason has filled you on the news that the Patriots have placed a May 9 tender on LeGarrette Blount, and what that means.  As he points out, one aspect of doing so is to keep the Patriots’ option open for adding Blount to their compensatory free agents (CFAs) lost.  This reason was also cited by Jeff Howe, who first reported on the news of the Blount’s tender.  Here’s a look at what why the Patriots would do this, and how other teams should respond.

For the Patriots, it’s less about gaining a new compensatory pick and more about insuring against their other two.

Here is the Patriots’ current cancellation chart for 2018 compensatory picks:

New England Patriots
CFAs Lost: 5CFAs Gained: 3
Logan Ryan3$10,000,00078Stephon Gilmore3$13,000,00043
Jabaal Sheard4$8,500,000122
Martellus Bennett5$6,750,000202
Barkevious Mingo7$2,500,000580Lawrence Guy6$3,350,000442
Chris Long7$2,250,000611Rex Burkhead6$3,150,000463

Ryan and Gilmore, both 3rd round values, obviously cancel each other out.  CFAs gained are never allowed to cancel out higher round CFAs lost unless there is no one left to cancel out. So Guy and Burkhead, both 6th rounders, cancel out Mingo and Long, both 7th rounders.  However, should there be a third 7th rounder (Blount), Guy and Burkhead would cancel out the highest valued 7th rounders first.  That last aspect is critical to understanding the minimal gains for the Patriots.

If Blount signs elsewhere for less than $2.25 million APY (i.e., less than Long), the 7th round pick that opens up is for Blount, at whatever APY he gets.  The problem though is that an APY less than $2.25 million is unlikely to make the 32-pick limit.  Looking at the current list, the last pick is going to the Bengals for Margus Hunt at $2.05 million APY. Also remember that running backs generally do not get as many snaps as other players, so Blount may need an even higher salary to account for that.  If Blount were able to get more than $2.25 million APY, he would be canceled out and the 7th round comp pick opened out would be for Long.  But again, on the current list Long would still be the very last pick.

So are the Patriots trying to make a play for the Mr. Irrelevant pick?  If they are thinking about comp picks, what’s more likely on their mind is the worry that Mingo or Long may not make their new teams’ rosters, and in the case of the 32 year old Long, retirement can’t be ruled out either.  If one of Mingo or Long is removed from the chart, the Patriots would lose their 5th round comp pick for Bennett. If both are removed, the Patriots would be completely shut out of comp picks.

As Jason explained, $1.1 million is probably a reasonable salary for someone like Blount at this point in his career.  Extending the tender is a low-cost move that insures against their better comp picks. And from a pure football standpoint, retaining Blount at that salary deepens their depth chart at running back with a player familiar with the system.

The risks for some other teams exist, but can be dealt with.

Half of the league has no reason to hold off on signing Blount since they’re not projected to get comp picks anyway.  Of course, that was true both before and after the May 9 tender, so if any of those teams wanted Blount they could have already had him.

Of the 15 teams with comp picks on the line, the Giants and Ravens are two teams that reports have linked him to.  The Giants hypothetically have some comp pick risk in signing Blount but in looking at their cancellation chart the risk is low:

New York Giants
CFAs Lost: 4CFAs Gained: 1
Johnathan Hankins4$9,000,000107
Robbie Gould7$2,000,000655Rhett Ellison6$4,475,000347
Marshall Newhouse7$1,550,000758
Coty Sensabaugh7$1,300,000821
Non-Qualifying UFAs LostNon-Qualifying UFAs Gained
Shaun Draughn$975,000968
Geno Smith$975,000969
Valentino Blake$855,0001040

It is very important to keep in mind that the two 7th rounders for Newhouse and Sensabaugh are not projected to make the 32-pick limit; they are 36th and 37th in line.  So it’s only their 4th for Hankins that they have to worry about. Regarding the three players they signed that aren’t currently projected to qualify as CFAs, the Giants could always cut them (or Blount) if they feel their contribution isn’t worth giving up a 4th round pick. (And in the case of Draughn, he might be cut as a direct result of signing Blount, as they also drafted Wayne Gallman.)

The Giants could fear that Newhouse and/or Sensabaugh could be cut, and as I noted yesterday in the case of the latter the Steelers could have a large comp pick incentive of their own, as doing so would pick up a 5th rounder for Markus Wheaton.  But even if that happened, again the Giants could cut Blount or any of the bubble CFAs that could interfere later on in the season.

The bottom line as I see it is if the Giants think Blount is worth bringing in on football merits, any risk that they take on against their 4th rounder for Hankins can be mitigated in multiple ways throughout the regular season.

The Ravens’ chart is more straightforward:

Baltimore Ravens
CFAs Lost: 5CFAs Gained: 3
Ricky Wagner3$9,500,00091
Kyle Juszczyk6$5,250,000295Tony Jefferson4$8,500,000125
Lawrence Guy6$3,350,000442Brandon Carr5$5,750,000265
Kamar Aiken7$2,600,000559Danny Woodhead7$2,933,333503
Vladimir Ducasse7$1,166,667868

As of now, the Ravens could afford to sign Blount and only have him cancel out Ducasse, who is also projected to miss the 32-pick limit. However, as with the Steelers and Sensabaugh, the Bills could have an incentive to cut Ducasse if they want to make an effort to recoup a 3rd round comp pick for Stephon Gilmore.  If that happened after signing Blount, the Ravens would lose their 3rd rounder for Ricky Wagner.  Ozzie Newsome, of course, pays keen attention to compensatory picks, so that may not be a risk he’s willing to take.  As with the Giants, should the Bills cut Ducasse the Ravens could also do the same with Blount to reopen the pick for Wagner.

Could a tag-and-trade be an option?

If the Giants or Ravens are interested in Blount but are also very worried about their comp picks, I wonder if they could mitigate that concern by trading for Blount for minimal compensation after he signs his tender.  It’s a move that would be quite typical of Bill Belichick always thinking one step ahead. I don’t know if Blount would qualify as a CFA in that scenario, and I am not aware of any comp pick situation in which a team re-signed one of their own UFAs only to trade him later.  If the Patriots did pose that option to Blount and the Giants or Ravens, a call into the NFL Management Council would be prudent just to see what the rules of the formula say about that.