How many compensatory picks could the Falcons receive for 2022?

Falcons: Keanu Neal an option at linebacker?

Free agency is far from over, but it’s safe to say that the Falcons have lost more than they have gained in 2021 free agency up to this point. And though the formula is fluid, we have a general idea of what those 2022 compensatory picks could be thus far.

Basically, if the Falcons lose more players who qualify as compensatory free agents than they sign during free agency, 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 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.

App. V, §2

  1. Start with the Average Per Year (APY) of the contract signed.
  2. Subtract from the APY any money that the compensatory formula does not count3.
  3. Rank these players by adjusted APY in descending order, and assign points to each player, equal to [number of leaguewide players]-[rank].
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

Terry Fontenot has signed Erik Harris, Brandon Copeland, Barkevious Mingo, Josh Andrews, Fabian Moreau, and Mike Davis thus far, but he’s let almost every in-house free-agent walk. Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee have signed team-friendly deals with the Dallas Cowboys. Alex Mack reunited with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco; Justin McCray has signed with Houston, and Charles Harris has joined Detroit.

According to OvertheCap, Mack and Neal currently net the Falcons two sixth-round compensatory picks, but the situation is fluid; players can fall out of the top 32 as others are signed. McCray would’ve added a seventh-round pick, but the former Falcons lineman fell beyond the 32-player limit. On the other side of that coin, teams with compensatory picks that sign other free agents can have their compensatory picks canceled out.

For example, the signing of Dante Fowler Jr. last offseason canceled out a compensatory pick the Falcons would have received for losing Austin Hooper. Players like Richard Sherman, Jadeveon Clowney, Antonio Brown, and Russell Okung remain unsigned, and they could all push Mack and Neal down the board.

The order of the awarded picks is a bit ambiguous as a committee takes many factors into account; such as annual salary, accolades, and snaps played. The process is very arbitrary, so it’s difficult to project unless you lose a high-profile free agent. For example, if the Cowboys hadn’t re-signed Dak Prescott and he hit free agency, one could expect them to get the first compensatory pick, beginning at the end of round three.

As of right now, the pair of Mack and Neal could be the only picks Atlanta is awarded. Kazee is listed as a non-CFA — non-compensatory free agent — and Todd Gurley‘s past achievements won’t put him in the conversation, but there is potential that a new city does wonders for the former Ram. Los Angeles didn’t receive a compensatory pick for Gurley in 2021, but that’s because he was cut. Ricardo Allen, James Carpenter, and the other cap casualties will fall into this category of not being eligible for the compensatory formula for the Falcons.

Right now, Atlanta hasn’t signed a compensatory free agent that would cancel out any of the picks. The entire process isn’t over, but it isn’t looking likely at this point. I think the Falcons will get a pick for Mack and Neal. Gurley is up in the air, and if he does yield Atlanta a pick, it will likely be a very low one. Darqueze Dennard also has an outside shot. It’s too early to tell, but it’s looking like the Falcons will be awarded a couple of compensatory picks in 2022.

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