For teams considering the possibility of trading players in a contract year, an important factor creeps into the equation.
Balanced against possible draft-pick compensation for 2014 is the likely impact of the player’s departure through free agency on the compensatory picks to be distributed in 2015.
It’s a complex formula that few completely understand. The NFL doesn’t publish the rules, and the league did not respond to an email sent Monday by PFT regarding the procedure for determining compensatory picks.
Per a league source who was reluctant to say too much on the topic, the NFL look at various factors when assessing compensatory draft picks, including the total average of the player’s contracts, his playing time, his Pro Bowl appearances. Age is a factor, if the player is on his third contract.
The most compensatory picks that any team can get in any year is four.
One common misconception comes from the idea that one compensatory pick is provided for each player lost in free agency. The league office determines compensatory picks based on net gains and losses in free agency, for transactions occurring from the start of the league year through June 1. During that window, free-agency arrivals can cancel out free-agency losses for compensatory-pick purposes.
After June 1, free-agency acquisitions don’t count toward the compensatory pick calculation, either for the player’s former team or his new team. It’s one of the reasons the Ravens waited until after June 1 to sign former Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith.
That’s why some teams will resist signing unrestricted free agents in March, April, or May, opting instead to sign veterans whose contracts were terminated due to cap reasons or otherwise.
Like everything else in football, some teams navigate this issue better than others. Regardless, any team thinking about trading a player due to become a free agent in 2014 needs to attempt to project what losing the player via free agency will do to its compensatory picks for 2015.