Every year the NFL awards 32 compensatory draft picks that supplement the 224 draft picks in a regular draft.
The compensatory draft picks are awarded to teams losing more or better compensatory free agents than they acquired. The number of comp picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four per team. Importantly, not every free agent lost or acquired automatically qualifies as a compensatory free agent.
Compensatory free agents are determined by the NFL Management Council using a secret formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Over time, many draftniks have tried to crack the formula, but none have succeeded so far, although some have elevated the pursuit into a true art form and have come very, very close to accurately predicting every comp pick: Blogger AdamJT13 in particular (read his excellent take on comp picks here) has demystified the progress greatly, and much of what you'll read below is based on his insights.
In layman's terms, this is how the allocation of comp picks works:
- Comp picks are awarded to teams that have lost more compensatory free agents than they signed in the previous year, up to a maximum of four.
- Each signed player cancels out a player lost. A player signed cancels out a player lost with either the same or next lower contract value. When there is no player lost with a lower contract, the player lost with the next higher contract is canceled out.
- Players who do not qualify as compensatory free agents: players who have been cut (i.e. Marcus Spears or Dan Connor), restricted or exclusive rights free agents that were not tendered (i.e. Orie Lemon or Brian Schaefering), players whose contract value is below about $900,000 (i.e. Felix Jones, who signed for $780,000 with the Eagles) and players signed after June 1 (i.e. Donte Rosario) won’t impact the number of comp picks for their former or new team.
- The round in which the comp pick is awarded is determined to a large degree by the contract value of the player lost, with some adjustments for playing time and postseason honors.
With that out of the way, let's look at where the Cowboys stand.
|Pos||Player||New Team||Years||Contract Value||Annual value|
|Pos||Player||Old Team||Years||Contract Value||Annual value|
Last year, the minimum contract value for which a comp pick was awarded was $890,000. That probably takes Felix Jones out of the equation and leaves the Cowboys with six players lost. The Cowboys signed two free agents before June 1, so those two players signed cancel out two players lost. Justin Durant ($1,182,500 annual contract value) cancels out the player with the next lowest contract value, which would be Kenyon Coleman ($1,005,000). Will Allen in turn has a lower annual value ($905,000) than any of the players lost, so he cancels out the player with the next highest value which in this case is Brian Moorman ($940,000).
That leaves the Cowboys with Phillips, Butler, Ogletree and Jenkins as compensatory free agents. So what will the Cowboys get in return?
Every year, the NFL publishes the list of comp picks as well as the list of player signed and lost. What they don't publish is for which specific players a comp pick was awarded, but in most cases that fairly easy to ascertain, which is exactly what I've done in the table below (using the contract values reported by spotrac.com or in the press):
|3||95||Houston||Mario Williams (6 yr $96 million)||16.0|
|3||96||Kansas City||Brandon Carr (5 yr $50.1 million)||10.0|
|3||97||Tennessee||Cortland Finnegan (5 yr $50 million)||10.0|
|4||130||Baltimore||Ben Grubbs (5 yr $36 million)||7.2|
|4||131||San Francisco||Josh Morgan (2 yr $11.5 million)||5.8|
|4||132||Detroit||Eric Wright (5 yr $37.5 million)||7.5|
|4||133||Atlanta||Curtis Lofton (5 yr $27.5 million)||5.5|
|5||166||Miami||Kendall Langford (4 yr $24 million)||6.0|
|5||167||Green Bay||Scott Wells (4 yr $24 million)||6.0|
|5||168||Baltimore||Jarret Johnson (4 yr $19 million)||4.8|
|6||201||Houston||Jason Allen (2 yr $8.2 million)||4.1|
|6||202||Tennessee||Jason Jones (1 yr $4.5 million)||4.5|
|6||203||Baltimore||Cory Redding (3 yr $10.5 million)||3.5|
|6||204||Kansas City||Kyle Orton (3 yr $10.5 million)||3.5|
|6||205||Oakland||Michael Bush (4 yr $14 million)||3.5|
|6||206||Pittsburgh||William Gay (2 yr $5 million)||2.5|
|7||239||Philadelphia||Steve Smith (1 yr $2.5 million)||2.5|
|7||240||Cincinnati||Jerome Simpson (1 yr $2 million)||1.0|
|7||241||Seattle||Charly Whitehurst (2 yr $4 million)||2.0|
|7||242||Seattle||Atari Bigby (2 yr $2.5 million)||1.3|
|7||243||Atlanta||Eric Weems (3 yr $4.2 million)||1.4|
|7||244||Atlanta||James Sanders (1 yr $910,000)||0.9|
|7||245||Detroit||Drew Stanton (1 yr $1.25 million)||1.3|
|7||246||San Francisco||Blake Costanzo (2 yr $2 million)||1.0|
|7||247||Baltimore||Tom Zbikowski (3 yr $5.5 million)||1.8|
|7||248||Tennessee||William Hayes (1 yr $890,000)||0.9|
|7||249||Atlanta||Kelvin Hayden (1 yr $890,000)||0.9|
|7||250||Miami||Will Allen (1 yr $1 million)||1.0|
|7||251||Cincinnati||Mike McGlynn (2 yr $1.95 million)||1.0|
|7||252||San Francisco||Madieu Williams (1 yr $890,000)||0.9|
|7||253||New York Giants||"Net value" comp pick||- -
|7||254||Indianapolis||"Net value" comp pick||- -|
Note that I am not an expert on comp picks, so while I'm fairly certain that the table above is directionally correct, I might be off on a player or two. Also, as AdamJT13 notes, "it should be noted that the contract value used in the equation does not include some parts of the contract, and that the contract information reported in the media is often incorrect." The Giants and Colts last year each received a "net value" comp pick. These are awarded when the number of players signed and lost is equal, but the value of the players lost is significantly higher than that of the players signed.
The Cowboys' four compensatory free agents have annual contract values of between $1.3 million and $1.8 million. Going by the 2013 comp picks in the table above, that would give the Cowboys four extra picks in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft. As outlined above, playing time and postseason honors could influence this a little, but I don't know by how much, and I doubt it would be enough to elevate one of those picks to a sixth-rounder.
Finally, because the comp pick methodology is a secret, we'll never know for sure which picks we'll get until the NFL actually announces them. Also, the season hasn't even started yet, and there's a (small) chance that some of the Cowboys compensatory free agents could end up not making their new teams. There's also the possibility of the minimum contract value for a comp pick being raised to a level where the Cowboys could possibly miss out on a pick. So there's always a chance the Cowboys could end up with slightly different picks than the ones projected here.
Ultimately though, it looks like the Cowboys will get some extra picks in the seventh round. It's not an easy task finding quality players in the seventh round, but the Cowboys have had their share of luck in recent years, drafting the likes of Jay Ratliff, Patrick Crayton and Sean Lissemore in the seventh. And if nothing else, up to four extra seventh rounders will increase your odds of hitting on at least one pick. After all, Hall Of Famers Rayfield Wright and Bob Hayes as well as Pro Bowlers Leon Lett and Brock Marion were all picked in the seventh round by the Cowboys.