In this year’s NFL Draft, the Falcons do not have any compensatory picks, but it should be a different story in 2021.
How do the compensatory picks work? Well, while on paper, there are seven rounds of the NFL Draft. If you consider a round to be 32 selections, there are actually eight rounds worth of picks.
The NFL “compensates” teams for losing unrestricted free agents by rewarding them picks based on the contracts they received and their performance. However, these selections will be “canceled out” by signing a player of a similar caliber as well, which is determined by the percentile of the contract’s value. Teams are rewarded these picks for the top 32 players that sign elsewhere during a given free agency period, with a maximum of four going to any franchise. Essentially, if you have more players leaving your team for significant money than joining in free agency, you receive some mid-round draft selections. If a player is cut by an organization and signs elsewhere, he does not count towards the cancellation of picks. We will get to an example of that with Atlanta this offseason shortly. It can be a bit confusing, but those are the basics.
So let’s take a look at the current state of the Falcons’ compensatory picks, with a little help from the Twitter account of Nick Korte of overthecap.com, a guy who is a whole lot smarter than me when it comes to this formula.
Here are the Falcons’ significant additions this offseason. Hayden Hurst was acquired via trade, so he is not involved in this discussion whatsoever. Todd Gurley was released by the Rams before his signing, so he will not count against the Falcons’ compensatory picks, an added bonus of bringing him on board. However, the most significant signing the Falcons made, Dante Fowler, will nullify the team receiving a compensatory pick for their most coveted free-agent departure, new Cleveland Brown Austin Hooper:
That's a 3rd round 2021 comp pick on the board to the Rams, and this contract should cancel out the highest compensatory free agent loss the Falcons have. That's currently a 4th rounder for the departure of Austin Hooper. https://t.co/1fPHzXHjlV
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 18, 2020
While Atlanta has made some smaller signings, such as a couple of XFL players and Laquon Treadwell, they will not count against the compensatory formula due to the lack of production and the contracts being for around the league minimum. Since they have not brought in any other significant free agents, this makes them eligible for a handful of picks in 2021. Let’s take a look.
The team should be eligible for a sixth-round pick for Wes Schweitzer:
This results in a swap of picks on the 2021 compensatory pick board: The Falcons add a 6th rounder for Wes Schweitzer's departure, and his arrival in DC cancels out the Redskins' 6th rounder just generated for the departure of Case Keenum. https://t.co/S9hfvNrY67
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 16, 2020
The team is also in line to add a fourth-round pick for the departure of Vic Beasley:
$9.5M will add a 4th round 2021 comp pick on the board to the Falcons.
It will also cancel out whichever one of the Titans' compensatory free agent losses is closest to the 4th round.
It will not cancel out the loss of Jack Conklin (3rd) unless there are no others to cancel out https://t.co/tg7xZDUhGQ
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 17, 2020
They looked to be eligible for a fifth-round pick for De’Vondre Campbell heading West to Arizona, but due to his base salary, it appears it will now be a sixth-round selection:
The "up to" may change this, but for the time being this adds a 5th round 2021 compensatory pick on the board to the Falcons. https://t.co/7mgguCEkiV
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 19, 2020
Looks like the base value of De'Vondre Campbell's contract is one year, $6M.
That's going to nudge the contract's 2021 compensatory pick value down to the 6th round in favor of the Falcons. https://t.co/wapWcqgqXo
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 20, 2020
Most recently, Adrian Clayborn signed with Cleveland, which makes them eligible for a 7th round pick IF he stays within the 32 pick limit:
This makes the Falcons eligible for a 7th round 2021 compensatory pick for the departure of Adrian Clayborn.
Currently, that pick would be below the 32-pick limit. https://t.co/3Jnv0MZLKC
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 31, 2020
I doubt the Falcons will ultimately receive the final seventh-round pick for Adrian Clayborn when some other signings come in. The Falcons may lose another pick, but they are more likely to pursue players that were released with their limited space. Assuming they do not sign anyone eligible for the compensatory draft formula, they are in line to receive an additional fourth-round selection next season, and two sixth-rounders. That will go a long way to their long-term success, but they are going to have to nail this month’s NFL Draft if they want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.