The NFL’s use of compensatory draft picks confuses most fans, so I will attempt to simplify the process that determines compensatory picks and speculate on the Falcons’ selections. These picks are distributed among the end of rounds three through seven and are awarded to teams that lose certain unrestricted free agents.
The formula created to determine the compensatory picks was developed by the NFL Management Council and has only recently been made available to the public — via the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (pdf version). But what is most relevant to this topic is Appendix V of the 2020 CBA, which OverTheCap has an excerpt from.
App. V, §1
[A] Compensatory Free Agent (“CFA”) shall be defined as an Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) who: (i) signed with a new Club during the prior free agency signing period […] prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Monday following the NFL Draft for that League Year1 […]; and (ii) ranked within the top 35%2 of all League players […]. Clubs that lose to other Clubs a greater number of CFAs than they sign or acquire from other Clubs shall be eligible to receive a Compensatory Draft Selection in the College Draft to be held in the following League Year subject to the provisions set forth below.
1 Prior to 2015, this date was June 1, and from 2015-2019 this date was the second Tuesday after the NFL Draft.
2 Under the 2011 CBA, this threshold was the top 50%.
Basically, if the Falcons lose more players that qualify as compensatory free agents than they sign during free agency, then they will receive compensatory picks in the following NFL draft. Players that are cut wouldn’t qualify; only those free to leave their old team become compensatory free agents. The Falcons lost Austin Hooper, Vic Beasley, De’Vondre Campbell, Wes Schweitzer, and Adrian Clayborn this offseason while bringing in Dante Fowler.
Until the NFL Management Council issues its official release, we will not know for sure what the picks will be. But using the formula given to us by the council, we can speculate on what the Falcons might be awarded.
App. V, §2
- Start with the Average Per Year (APY) of the contract signed.
- Subtract from the APY any money that the compensatory formula does not count3.
- Rank these players by adjusted APY in descending order, and assign points to each player, equal to [number of leaguewide players]-[rank].
- Add anywhere from 25 to 100 points for players who played a percentage of snaps on offense or defense in the range of 25% to 100%. (Kickers and punters are given a different point addition unrelated to snap counts.)
- Add 20 or 5 points for postseason honors as determined by the AP’s All Pro list, and the PFWA’s All NFL/All Conference list.
3 Prior to the 2020 CBA, it had been determined that workout bonuses, incentives, and salary escalators were common devices that the compensatory formula does not count. However, App. V, §2(a) of the 2020 CBA makes clear that these devices will now count if they are considered Likely To Be Earned, or are earned in the player’s first season of his new contract.
Austin Hooper: 4th-rounder; $10,500,000 (APY)
Vic Beasley: 5th-rounder; $9,500,000 (APY) — Titans
De’Vondre Campbell: 5th-rounder; $6,000,000 (APY)
Wes Schweitzer: 6th-rounder; $4,500,000 (APY)
Adrian Clayborn: 7th-rounder; $2,875,000 (APY)
When Dante Fowler left Los Angeles, his contract had expired. Therefore, the Rams will be awarded the compensatory pick for him, but what people also don’t know is the signing of him cancels out the Falcons own compensatory picks. Fowler will likely net the Rams a third or fourth-round selection, so more than likely; it will be Austin Hooper’s fourth-round compensatory pick that is canceled out.
App. V, §3(a):
- A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.
- If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.
- A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out.
So Falcons fans can expect four compensatory picks spread out from rounds five through seven. These four additional picks should serve the new regime well, as Atlanta has the least number of players under contract for the 2021 season.