The Baltimore Ravens (yes we’re using this as a launching point again) website hosted an article that began with a segment concerning the compensatory pick system. The article looks at Peter King’s (hear the choir of angels singing in the background?) evaluation of the system as being broken.

Let’s begin by looking at the process….. or not looking at it. The NFL system for compensatory picks is vague, confusion and basically arbitrary.  A look at the previous CBA is a little tough to read. Me not being a lawyer (and not yet going to outside legal council based in Iowa), I’ll break it down best I can.

First, the reason there are 32 picks is based upon the number of teams in the league. 32 teams = 32 picks. Fun Fact #1.

From that point on, the nebulousness of the agreement hides the real formula. I can say this for certain. In regards to the actual CBA, the compensatory system is directly dependent on free agency. There is no formula, however, listed in the CBA for determining compensatory picks (at least I haven’t found it, feel free to try and correct me). Instead, on multiple occasions, there is a section within a broader section the agreement will read something like this:

Section 15. Compensatory Draft Selection: The procedures for awarding Compensatory Draft Selections shall be determined as agreed by the NFLand the NFLPA.

What this means, to me, is that there are rules in place that are not necessarily agreed upon within the current/former CBA but determined outside the agreement and agreed upon by both bodies in the organization.

So where does that leave us. With the next best sources for information – the internet. Several sources identify the procedure as a formula weighing free agents gained and lost in a given period of time. For instance, if one team, Team A, allows a player to leave via free agency to another, then they will be awarded a compensatory pick based upon that players playing time with his new team, productivity with his new team, and (this one is more debatable) salary with the new team.

Now if Team A also signs a free agent while losing one, then they have a net gain of zero players. The only way they’ll receive a compensatory pick in this situation is if the player that leaves is more valuable (determined by the same formula that awards picks) than the player gained and even then the pick shall only be in the 7th round of the NFL draft.

All this sounds good and clean until you realize the shear number of transactions that occur between teams in free agency that this group must parse through. Take for instance the Baltimore Ravens. This year were awarded two compensatory picks for free agents Dwan Edwards (to Buffalo) and Justin Bannan (to Denver).

Of all the players the Ravens gained or lost,  only 5 did anything particularly significant – Bannan, Edwards, Troy Smith, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Corey Redding. Three of them were full year starters. Smith saw several starts and Houshmandzadeh saw extended playing time. Coming out with 2 fairly high picks seems hard to gather. I would argue Redding and Edwards would cancel each other out, as would Houshmandzadeh and Smith, leaving maybe a 5th rounder for Bannan.

The example Peter King cites is Julius Peppers, for which Carolina received a 3rd round pick for. Peppers production was very high all season and his salary, playing time, and any other factor. King argues that the Panthers should’ve received a higher pick, and I agree. The loss of Peppers was a massive factor in the downfall of their defense this last season. You can almost argue that Peppers could have provided them with a few more wins had he been retained, so how can the pick be limited to a 3rd round selection.

Given all this I think we need to reevaluate the system. There ought to be a retooling of the compensatory system that factors in big name free agents that result in significant losses for teams or simply scrap the system entirely and look for a new way to provide compensation for teams, perhaps through a heightened cap limit for the team that loses the player, allowing them to spend more money to sign another free agent  next season.

I think the committee shouldn’t just award the compensatory selections, but instead rate all the players and inform each team and even the public, of the rating a player received in the compensatory process. This will set a standard by which later picks can be judged and evaluated as well as provide a standard for the committee.

Looking at the process, and trying to articulate better solutions to it, I would say that I am more in favor scrapping the entire system in favor of a new system. As its set, it seems unfair for certain teams to be awarded something over other teams for what appears to be equal performance. Without a full disclosed system its impossible to truly evaluate how worthy a pick would be.  At any rate, I’ll include some source material for others to peruse if they’d like to work on other ideas.


Current/Former CBA

Wikipedia Article concerning NFL Draft

Draft Related Blog

Peter King’s MMQB (Compensatory Section is Number 2 in the “Ten Things I think I Think)

Late for Work 3/28