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Will Cowboys get more compensatory draft picks in 2019?

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The Cowboys got four comp picks this year. Is there a chance they could get some comp picks in 2019 as well?

Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Ed. Note: Wanted to acknowledge that our old friend OCC was a big contributor to the creation of this post. You guys might recognize his style throughout. Thanks OCC!

The Cowboys have not made a lot of headlines in free agency so far this year, but they did make some moves, even if they didn’t garner a lot of attention outside of Dallas. They tagged DeMarcus Lawrence and tendered David Irving, both big moves in ensuring a competitive pass rush this year. At the same time, Cowboys free agents Anthony Hitchens, Jonathan Cooper, Keith Smith, and Kyle Wilber signed with other teams.

Here’s a look at the 15 Cowboys players who became free agents heading into the 2018 offseason, and what their status is today:

Name Pos Status 2018 Team Comp. Pick eligible?
Anthony Hitchens LB signed Kansas City Yes
Kyle Wilber LB signed Oakland Yes
Jonathan Cooper OG signed San Francisco tbd
Keith Smith FB signed Oakland No
DeMarcus Lawrence DE tagged Cowboys No
David Irving DT tendered Cowboys No
L.P. Ladouceur LS re-signed Cowboys No
Brian Price DT re-signed Cowboys No
Bene Benwikere CB UFA - - tbd
Brice Butler WR UFA - - tbd
Byron Bell OT UFA - - tbd
Stephen Paea DT UFA - - tbd
Alfred Morris RB UFA - - tbd
Joe Looney OG UFA - - tbd
Zac Dysert QB ERFA - - No

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.

Players who do not qualify as compensatory free agents:

  • Players who have been cut (e.g. Orlando Scandrick, Benson Mayowa, or Joe Vellano).
  • Players acquired or lost in a trade (e.g. Jamize Olawale).
  • Restricted or exclusive rights free agents that were not tendered (e.g. Keith Smith, Joe Thomas).
  • Players whose original team did not match an offer sheet (i.e. Benson Mayowa in 2016).
  • Players whose contract value is below about $2.0 million per year (e.g. Kyle Wilber).
  • Players signed after May 12th (previously June 1) won’t impact the number of comp picks for their former or new team (e.g. Justin Durant last year).

With that out of the way, let’s look at where the Cowboys stand today in terms of comp picks.

[Table updated 4/3]

Compensatory Free Agents lost: 5 Compensatory Free Agents gained: 3
Player POS Annual Value Contract Value POS Annual value
Anthony Hitchens LB $8,958,000
Jonathan Cooper OG $5,000,000 Cameron Fleming OT $2,500,000
Kyle Wilber LB $1,375,000 Deonte Thompson WR $2,500,000
Brice Butler WR ???
Bene Benwikere CB $880,000 Marcus Martin OG $880,000
Non-compensatory free agents
Player POS Annual Value Contract Value POS Annual value
Keith Smith FB $2,100,000 Allen Hurns WR $6,000,000
Joe Thomas LB $2,300,000

Keith Smith became a non-compensatory free agent when the Cowboys didn't tender him. Newly signed Joe Thomas was a restricted free agent in Green Bay and the Packers chose not to tender him, which makes him a non-compensatory free agent. Allen Hurns was released by the Jaguars and hence doesn't qualify as a compensatory free agent.

Right now, the Cowboys are looking at one comp pick (for Anthony Hitchens) in the 2019 draft, and it doesn't look like they'll have a lot more compensatory free agents to boost that number.

Look over the list at the top of the post carefully. Are there any Cowboys UFAs left who will sign a contract worth at least $2.0 million per year with another team before May 12? Of the remaining unsigned UFAs, Byron Bell is the only player who currently averages $2 million or more (he averages exactly $2 million), and his play in Dallas probably wasn't conducive to a pay raise from another team.

Perhaps Alfred Morris could hit that $2 million mark, and even in a market for wide receivers that's handing out crazy money, Brice Butler is a longshot to hit the $2 million mark.

And keep in mind that the Cowboys haven't really started shopping in free agency yet. If they want a shot at the fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens could net them, they'll have to do their free agent shopping in the non-compensatory bargain bin.

So far, the Cowboys have invited eight free agents for a visit to Dallas (signing two so far) and have reportedly expressed interest in LB Navorro Bowman. Of the six unsigned visitors + Bowman, only WR Allen Hurns counts as a non-compensatory free agent, as he was cut by the Jaguars.

The status of the remaining players is unclear at this point: All are UFAs and therefore technically all would be compensatory free agents, but that will depend on the contract they'll eventually sign. If they sign contracts with an annual value below $2 million, they'll count as non-compensatory free agents. And as the table below shows, none of those UFAs is currently too far away from that $2 million threshold.

Free Agents with Cowboys interest
POS Player Team 2017 Av. Annual Contract Value
WR Allen Hurns JAC $10.1 million
Dontrelle Inman LAC $2.7 million
Justin Hunter PIT $0.9 million
Deonte Thompson (signed) BUF $0.8 million
LB NaVorro Bowman SF $2.6 million
Joe Thomas (signed) GB $0.6 million
OL Cameron Feming NE $1.8 million
LaAdrian Waddle NE $1.2 million
Marcus Martin CLE $0.8 million

Outside of Hurns, it looks like the Cowboys are showing interest in players they think they might be able to sign to contracts below $2 million in order to preserve their chance at that fourth-round comp pick in 2019. But is skimping on free agents this year really worth a comp pick in 2019?

Right now, the Cowboys' chances at a comp pick in 2019 don’t look good anyway. The Cowboys will have to sign a few more free agents, and they won't be able to keep all of them below that $2 million threshold. And they may not have any more UFAs of their own left who'll get a bigger contract.

The Cowboys probably won’t get any comp picks in the 2019 NFL draft.

All the more reason to make sure they get the most out of the ones they have this year.