Football 101: Compensatory Picks

USA TODAY Sports

The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2014 NFL Draft this week. Which made us wonder if everyone knows how compensatory picks work.

One of the greatest mysteries when it comes to the NFL Draft is the awarding of compensatory picks. The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not give a lot of information on the awarding of compensatory draft selections, adding to the confusion of exactly how the system works.

To start this breakdown, we will look first to the CBA itself. Article 6 covers the College Draft, with Section 2 describing the Number of Choices and Eligibility. Subparagraph a reads:

The Draft shall consist of seven rounds, with each round consisting of the same number of selection choices as there will be Clubs in the NFL the following League Year, plus a maximum number of additional Compensatory Draft Selections equal to the number of Clubs then in the League, with such Compensatory Draft Selections reserved for Clubs losing certain Unrestricted Free Agents. Each Draft shall be held between February 14 and June 2, on a date which shall be determined by the Commissioner.

Section 10 of the same article specifically covers Compensatory Draft Selections and reads:

The rules and procedures regarding Compensatory Draft Selections previously agreed upon by the NFL and the NFLPA shall remain in effect, subsequent to any future changes as to which the parties may agree.

And that's it. We learned that there are 32 picks awarded ("a maximum number of additional Compensatory Draft Selections equal to the number of Clubs then in the League") and that there's some agreement between the league and the NFLPA to establish how picks will be awarded.

In the NFL's release about the 2014 compensatory picks, the league explained the process a little more.

Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The 32 compensatory choices announced today will supplement the 224 choices in the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft (May 8-10).

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

Basically, the league awards 32 extra picks each year, with those picks ranging from rounds 3-7 (not stated above, but a true statement). The number of picks a team may receive is based on the number of free agents they lose; signed free agents cancel out a player lost. Compensation does not figure into this calculation; a player signed cancels out the player lost, no matter the contract either player signs.

Cut players do not count in the number of players lost, because the original team had the option to keep that player. These additional picks are intended to provide compensation only for players who have a contract expire at the end of the year, and a team does not re-sign them.

With that in mind, you can fairly well calculate how many compensatory picks a team could receive each year. Thirteen of the 32 NFL teams were awarded picks this year. To get an idea of why each team received the picks, here are the players they each lost and signed in 2013:

ATLANTA

Lost:

Brent Grimes, Luke McCown (did not qualify for a compensatory pick, 32 picks already awarded), Christopher Owens, Will Svitek, Vance Walker

Gained:

Osi Umenyiora

BALTIMORE

Lost:

Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Cary Williams

Gained:

None

CINCINNATI

Lost:

Josh Brown, Bruce Gradkowski, Manny Lawson, Brian Leonard (did not qualify for a compensatory pick, 32 picks already awarded), Pat Sims, Dan Skuta

Gained:

Josh Johnson, Mike Pollak, Alex Smith

DALLAS

Lost:

Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Mike Jenkins, John Phillips

Gained:

Justin Durant

DETROIT

Lost:

Cliff Avril, Gosder Cherilus, Justin Durant, Drayton Florence, Sammie Lee Hill

Gained:

Reggie Bush, Jason Jones, Glover Quin

GREEN BAY

Lost:

Greg Jennings, Erik Walden

Gained:

None

HOUSTON

Lost:

Alan Ball, Connor Barwin, James Casey, Justin Forsett, Donnie Jones, Glover Quin

Gained:

Greg Jones, Shane Lechler, Ed Reed

NEW ENGLAND

Lost:

Patrick Chung, Donald Thomas, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead

Gained:

Danny Amendola, Isaac Sopoaga, Will Svitek

NEW YORK GIANTS

Lost:

Martellus Bennett, Chase Blackburn, Domenik Hixon, Osi Umenyiora

Gained:

Josh Brown, Ryan Mundy, Brandon Myers

NEW YORK JETS

Lost:

Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, LaRon Landry, Matt Slauson

Gained:

Antwan Barnes, Mike Goodson

PITTSBURGH

Lost:

Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy, Mike Wallace

Gained:

Bruce Gradkowski

SAN FRANCISCO

Lost:

Ted Ginn, Dashon Goldson, Ricky Jean Francois, Isaac Sopoaga, Delanie Walker

Gained:

Craig Dahl, Phil Dawson, Glenn Dorsey, Dan Skuta

ST. LOUIS

Lost:

Danny Amendola, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Gibson, Robert Turner

Gained:

Jared Cook, Jake Long

As you can see, taking the St. Louis Rams for example, Amendola and Dahl are cancelled by Cook and Long, leaving Fletcher, Gibson, and Turner. Thus, the Rams should be in position to receive three compensatory selections. (This isn't exactly 100-percent, as there is some compensation consideration here. The highest paid gain cancels the highest paid loss and on down the line.)

Then, the league comes in with the calculation that no one really knows. There are some good websites out there that come close each year, but the league guards the algorithm for calculating the worth of each team's loss.

Using that calculation, the league then awards the compensatory picks at the end of each round, from 3-7. If there are more free agent losses that could earn a compensatory pick than the 32 allowed picks, some teams may just not get a pick. That happened this year for the Chicago Bears, who had the 33rd ranked compensatory pick. Additionally, the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals both had one more pick than they were awarded, based on the net-loss calculation, but they were the 34th and 35th pick, respectively, thus they were not awarded.

Then there is a weird calculation that can come into play. If a team does not suffer a net-loss in free agency, but the algorithm finds that the salary and playing time of the players they signed was effectively a loss from the players they did not retain, they can be awarded a compensatory pick. This year, that happened for the Oakland Raiders. That pick, however, falls into the last position of all the awarded compensatory picks, making it the 36th ranked pick, and therefore was not awarded.

If there is ever a year when 32 picks are not earned based on all the above math, then the league will round out the picks based on draft order.

If you have followed all of that, the picks awarded for the 2014 NFL Draft were:

ROUND CHOICE/

ROUND

OVERALL SELECTION

TEAM

3

33-97

Pittsburgh

3

34-98

Green Bay

3

35-99

Baltimore

3

36-100

San Francisco

4

33-133

Detroit

4

34-134

Baltimore

4

35-135

Houston

4

36-136

Detroit

4

37-137

New York Jets

4

38-138

Baltimore

4

39-139

Atlanta

4

40-140

New England

5

33-173

Pittsburgh

5

34-174

New York Giants

5

35-175

Baltimore

5

36-176

Green Bay

6

33-209

New York Jets

6

34-210

New York Jets

6

35-211

Houston

6

36-212

Cincinnati

6

37-213

New York Jets

6

38-214

St. Louis

6

39-215

Pittsburgh

7

33-248

Dallas

7

34-249

St. Louis

7

35-250

St. Louis

7

36-251

Dallas

7

37-252

Cincinnati

7

38-253

Atlanta

7

39-254

Dallas

7

40-255

Atlanta

7

41-256

Houston

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