From wikipedia (I know, wikipedia… but it’s mostly accurate):
In addition to the 32 picks in each round (of the NFL draft), there are a total of 32 picks awarded at the ends of Rounds 3 through 7. These picks, known as “compensatory picks,” are awarded to teams that have lost more qualifying free agents than they gained the previous year in free agency. Teams that gain and lose the same number of players but lose higher-valued players than they gain also can be awarded a pick, but only in the seventh round, after the other compensatory picks. Compensatory picks cannot be traded, and the placement of the picks is determined by a proprietary formula based on the player’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors with his new team, with salary being the primary factor. So, for example, a team that lost a linebacker who signed for $2.5 million per year in free agency might get a sixth-round compensatory pick, while a team that lost a wide receiver who signed for $5 million per year might receive a fourth-round pick.
If fewer than 32 such picks are awarded, the remaining picks are awarded in the order in which teams would pick in a hypothetical eighth round of the draft (These are known as “supplemental compensatory selections”).
Compensatory picks are awarded each year at the NFL annual meeting which is held at the end of March; typically, about three or four weeks before the draft.
It’s actually slightly more complicated than that, but they got all the major points. So what’s the point of bringing up compensatory picks in the middle of the season?
On NFL Network this morning, Michael Lombardi was praising the trade the Rams made with the Broncos to acquire Brandon Lloyd. The gist of it was that the Rams gave up a 6 (that can become a 5), but if the Rams let Lloyd walk at the end of the season via free agency, Lloyd will likely get a huge contract, and the Rams would get as high as a 3rd round compensatory pick in return. Here’s the video:
This isn’t the first time Lombardi has made a similar statement. I don’t want to get into the unlikelihood that some team out there is going to shell out beaucoup dollars for a 31 year old possession receiver who has had one good year (in 8.5 NFL seasons) and a recent history of injuries, or at least the kind of money that would warrant a 3rd round compensatory pick. (Oops, I guess I just did.) Instead, I’d like to focus on Lombardi’s tenuous grasp of how compensatory picks work. If the Rams do indeed lose Lloyd to free agency, and even if the highly unlikely scenario arises that some dopey GM out there shells out $10 million per season for him, the Rams will only receive a good comp pick for him if they don’t go out and sign some free agents of their own. With punter Donnie Jones being the one and only player on their own team definitely worth re-upping after the 2011 season, it’s a fairly good bet the Rams will be buyers in free agency. A good example is the Eagles this past offseason. The Eagles lost a nice handful of free agents, including Stewart Bradley to a 5 year, $25 million deal, which would normally net Philly a comp pick in return. However, the Eagles won’t get squadoosh, due to the fact they signed half the league.
This is a common misconception among casual fans with compensatory picks. OK, maybe not “casual fans.” A casual fan wouldn’t have a clue about what a comp pick is. Let’s go with… This is a misconception among “semi-hardcore fans.” Lombardi was the “Senior Personnel Executive” with the Raiders for 8 years. He was responsible for pro and college player evaluations as well as handling all veteran contracts. The late Al Davis was technically considered the “GM,” but Lombardi certainly handled some of those responsibilities. He has also held front office jobs with the Eagles, Rams, Browns, and 49ers. He should have a better grasp of how comp picks work.
Anyway, not really NFC East related, but I figured we’d get our learn on.