A comprehensive guide to the Vikings compensatory picks situation as it stands now.
An NFL offseason is full to the brim of roster transactions that are almost 100% speculative, attempts to predict the future, as front offices across the league spend millions and millions of dollars hoping it translates to wins on Sundays. That is why I’ve always been drawn to the more calculated gamesmanship opportunities presented by the NFL’s secretive compensatory pick process, it is less crystal ball and more of a game of Stratego.
Like myself, Nick Korte can recall the days when an anonymous internet user named “AdamJT13” posted in various forums, and eventually his own site, attempts to decipher the formula that distributes 32 extra draft picks to teams every year. Those picks are assigned based on how free agency played out during the prior offseason.
Korte calls AdamJT13 a “pioneer” for what he did, making the formula considerably less secretive (but not any less complicated) and notes that his internet absence, which coincided with the signing of the NFL’s newest Collective Bargaining Agreement, left a considerable void for those wanting to be informed on how and why picks are being handed out.
“He stopped issuing comp pick projections when the new CBA was created, and hasn’t been heard from in years,” Korte told me. “But I owe a lot to Adam for doing the real difficult work of discovering some rules with the comp pick formula.”
Korte has been doing great work for Over The Cap to try and pick up where AdamJT13 left off, in addition to running his own Denver Broncos site call “Thin Air” and being a must-follow on Twitter. Since this is the first time in a long time that the Vikings have had such a considerable number of free agents heading out of town, I asked Korte to help us decipher and better understand the big picture on compensatory picks, and he was kind enough to oblige.
And, just in case anyone here wants to hold his Denver loyalties against him, Korte was quick to remind me that they kept the Packers from glory in Super Bowl XXXII and openly admits “I fear that the Broncos may not have repeated had Gary Anderson made that kick.”
Korte explained to me that it was his connection to Over The Cap that made him realize that they were already compiling much of the data required to project, in a mostly accurate manner, the distribution of the comp picks the following year.
“I saw an opportunity to take Adam’s research to the next level, by building a program that would track the list of comp picks in real time, once deals eligible for the formula were signed,” he explains. “Between that list and the cancellation charts, I hope that I’ve provided NFL followers with better knowledge on how this complicated process works.”
Like anything complicated, the compensatory pick formula requires a glossary of definitions, and there are a few that Korte uses that you should know.
UFA: Unrestricted Free Agent
CFA: Compensatory Free Agent
APY: Average Per Year
“Most, but not all, UFAs become CFAs that are part of the compensatory pick formula if they sign with a new team,” Korte told me while also noting that CFA is an acronym he has seen used in official NFL documents. “To become CFAs, they have to sign a deal with an APY that’s in the top half of all NFL players on rosters, they have to sign before the second Tuesday after the draft (May 9th this year), and they have to stay on the new team’s roster past Week 10.”
Of course, a team “cancels out” their claim to a potential compensatory pick when they sign an unrestricted free agent from another team, so a team has to lose more than they gain in an offseason to be eligible to any compensation.
“Compensatory picks were introduced as part of the landmark 1993 CBA that introduced free agency to the NFL,” says Korte. “With that implementation, teams were worried that other teams could outspend them for their pending UFAs, and thus they wanted some sort of compensation in exchange for losing such players. However, since then it’s been well established that outspending others in free agency does not necessarily equal success in the NFL, and the effect of the comp pick system has morphed into a way for some teams to plan ahead for future rosters by knowing which UFAs should be allowed to walk, thus allowing them to stockpile more draft picks to build their roster.”
Korte has noticed that a few NFL front offices are particularly skillful at collecting compensatory picks, and you’ll notice they are led by General Managers that have great job security and know there is a future to plan for.
“Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens and Ted Thompson of the Packers are the two G.M.s that have mastered working the comp pick formula to their advantage, and it’s no accident that they lead the league in number of comp picks awarded,” says Korte who also pegs the Broncos, Seahawks, Steelers, and Bengals as teams that prioritize compensatory picks. “Bill Belichick also knows how to work the formula, as we all know he’s a master of the NFL in almost all aspects.”
How about Rick Spielman?
“It’s tough to tell how much he cares about comp picks, because the Vikings haven’t lost many high level CFAs since he’s been G.M.” Korte explains. “This offseason is different in that the Vikings lost a high quantity of CFAs, but Matt Kalil is the only high-valued one. Furthermore, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that Spielman’s decided to fix the offensive line in free agency now instead of waiting for comp picks later. There’s more than one way to build a successful roster.”
Korte is quick to admit that unknowns still exist when it comes to the formula and that even some of the oddities that are known to exist can create uncertainty when projecting. A few of these oddities are present when looking at the Vikings compensatory picks projections this offseason.
“One thing to keep an eye on is that I’m skeptical that Adrian Peterson will count in the formula if/when he signs elsewhere,” says Korte. “Although he was listed in the NFL’s official press release as an Unrestricted Free Agent, he became a UFA because of a contract renegotiation that allowed the Vikings to decline an option on his 2017 salary – of which they did decline, of course.”
“Because this option was not part of the original contract, it allowed the Vikings to shorten the deal from its original length,” he continues to explain. “It’s been established that such renegotiations that shorten contracts via player options do not allow them to qualify for the comp pick formula.”
Korte notes that this rule was fully realized when Laveranues Coles was a free agent in 2009 and could also apply to Colin Kaepernick this offseason if he is signed by a new team before May 9th.
“However, I don’t know for sure if that applies to team options as well,” he admits. “If the Vikings qualify for other comp picks and Peterson signs elsewhere, I’m hopeful that we’ll have an answer to that question in 2018.”
Like Korte, I recall very well a 2009 storyline that revolved around the Steelers getting a big surprise when they allowed prized free agent Alan Faneca to leave with expectation of a third round compensatory pick, but were surprised to only receive a fifth rounder. A little-known rule (at that time) was responsible for the miscalculation in Pittsburgh, and I was curious how it might also impact the Adrian Peterson situation.
“What I refer to as the ‘Alan Faneca Rule’ dictates that no CFA with ten or more accrued seasons can be valued higher than a fifth rounder,” says Korte who expects the rule to apply to the Bengals next offseason in regards to Andrew Whitworth. “This was discovered by local Pittsburgh media as many observers, including the Steelers, wanted an answer as to what happened with Faneca. I have no idea why this rule exists, but it does.”
Much to my surprise, however, Korte says that the “Alan Faneca Rule” will not apply to Adrian Peterson should he sign a contract that gets him included in the compensatory pick formula. Missing nearly all of 2014, following the child abuse incident that landed him on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, means that Peterson only has accrued nine seasons in the NFL.
“I don’t know how likely it is that Peterson can get a deal for over $7 million APY that would be around the minimum to get into the 4th round, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Korte notes.
Korte also notes that the Vikings will not be eligible for a compensatory pick due to the departure of wide out Charles Johnson. Johnson was a restricted free agent (RFA) that they chose not to retain via the tender process, meaning he was not a “natural” UFA when he hit the open market.
“RFAs that do not receive tenders do not qualify for the formula,” he confirmed. “The intuitive way to think about it is that the Vikings had a chance to keep Johnson on their own will, yet they relinquished that opportunity.”
The final way to receive a compensatory pick is to essentially be a bad team in a year when there are not 32 of them awarded through the formula. The NFL will always award 32, so any unaccounted for compensatory picks are tacked onto the end of the seventh round and awarded to teams based on the original NFL Draft order which is based on the win-loss record from the previous season.
As for this offseason, Korte sees the Vikings as having a chance to gain some 2018 selections via the compensatory formula.
“Currently, the Vikings are actually eligible for three compensatory picks. My program is saying it’s currently a sixth for Andre Smith, a seventh for Jeff Locke, and another seventh for Audie Cole,” says Korte who also notes the situation is still fluid and complex. “However, the seventh for Cole is currently beyond the 32-pick limit on compensatory picks awarded per year, and the seventh for Locke is 32nd in order, meaning that if another comp pick becomes eligible, the seventh for Locke will also fall outside the 32-pick limit. Finally, the pick for Andre Smith is on the sixth/seventh bubble. I could easily see him being valued as a seventh if he does not start. Interestingly enough, he was on this same bubble last year for Cincinnati via his one season in Minnesota.”
We appreciate Nick Korte coming over to Vikings Territory to help us better understand the Vikings compensatory picks situation, and the formula as a whole, and I’d like to encourage you all to bookmark his Over The Cap real time cancellation chart as a premier resource on compensatory picks, and also send any Bronco fans in your life over to Thin Air.
You’ll also want to follow him on Twitter for the most accurate and timely Vikings compensatory picks news around, especially since they’ve gotten even more important now that they can be traded for the first time in NFL history.
“I think there’s little question that the value of comp picks will increase from being tradeable,” Korte opines. “But it’s probably too early to tell just how much more sought they will become.”
About 12.5% of all draft selections made each offseason are compensatory picks, effectively adding an eighth round to the NFL Draft. That alone should be reason enough for all of us to at least casually pay attention to the Vikings compensatory picks situation on an annual basis.
Nick Korte has agreed to come back once all of the free agency dust is settled to discuss his more concrete projections for the Vikings compensatory picks, which we very much look forward to.