It’s no secret that many teams are now crafting their free-agency philosophies around the value of receiving potential compensatory selections in any given year. As you will read in this piece, there were some creative methods teams utilized this offseason to improve their chances of gaining a compensatory pick in 2022.
So, how do compensatory picks work?
The number of compensatory picks allotted each year is limited to the number of teams in the league (32), per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, compensatory picks are not divided equally among the teams, and no team can receive more than four compensatory picks in a single year. To qualify for compensatory picks, teams must end up with more or better qualifying free agents lost than gained in a particular year.
Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks between Rounds 3 and 7 based upon a formula, which is not released by the league, that takes into account a player’s average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards. While there is an expected level of compensation for a player based on the amount he has signed for, his playing time (or lack thereof) in the upcoming season could alter the expectation.
In November of 2020, the NFL announced it would award two third-round selections (one in consecutive years) to any team that loses a minority coach or executive to a head coach or general manager job with another NFL club. Those selections come at the back end of the compensatory picks awarded in the third round. The Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams all received their first of two picks in this year’s draft and will receive the other in next year’s draft.
The compensatory picks for the 2022 draft won’t be determined by the NFL Management Council’s formula until after the 2021 season is over, but in this post, I’ll attempt to project who will be receiving compensatory picks next year and the round in which those picks could fall.
Keep in mind: To qualify as a compensatory free agent, players need to have been signed as unrestricted free agents before May 3 and rank high enough among their peers to qualify for the compensatory-pick formula. Players who were released by their previous team are not eligible for the formula, so they’re not included in the key additions and losses here.