It’s become an annual tradition. During March owners meetings the NFL announces the awarding of compensatory draft picks. The Redskins don’t get any or get some leftover crumbs. Fans complain and say there is a conspiracy against their team.
But there really isn’t an anti-Redskins bias on Park Avenue (well, in matters not involving the interpretation of “uncapped year”, anyway). The way the Redskins do business keeps them from being awarded extra picks in the draft.
The exact formula for awarding the picks is a secret, something that doesn’t help when Redskins fans, or fans of any other team left out in the process, cry foul. All we get in the way of explanation is this from the press release announcing the picks:
“Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.
The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. . .
Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.”
The first paragraph is the key when we’re talking about the Redskins. They are a team that signs a lot of free agents so in any given year and, historically, players who leave the Redskins aren’t highly coveted by other teams. The number of free agents they sign is usually going to be greater than the number that they lose.
You get compensatory picks by letting players that other teams might value walk when their contracts expire and you replace them with either your own draft picks or with players who have been cut by other teams as they do not count in the formula. For example, last year the Ravens lost Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, and Cary Williams. The only free agent they signed was Elvis Dumervil, who had been cut by the Broncos. So they ended up with comp picks in the third and fifth rounds and two in the fourth.
If you look at the teams that have received the most compensatory picks since the system started in 1994 (go here and scroll down to the third page), you see some of the most consistently successful franchises in the NFL. There have been 20 Super Bowls since the system started and 15 have been won by teams in the top 10 in terms of the most comp picks awarded. That’s right, 75 percent.
Do the actual picks awarded help the teams to be successful? Or does conducting player personnel business in a manner that leads to getting awarded picks lead to success? Without doing extensive research, the answer is probably a little bit of both. Getting the extra picks makes it easier to build through the draft and that leads to getting more compensatory picks.
Back to the Redskins, they are 28th in compensatory picks received since the system was started. It’s well known that they talk a lot about building through the draft but when it comes down to it they fill holes with free agents. Of the 22 projected starters for this coming season, nine were drafted by the Redskins.
Not getting compensatory picks does not necessarily doom a franchise to failure. The Saints have had fewer over the years than the Redskins and they won a Super Bowl not too long ago. And the Broncos are 30th in comp picks and they were just in the Super Bowl. Still, building through the draft and collecting a few comp picks along the way certainly is the most consistently way of building a winning team.