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Projecting compensatory picks for 2019 NFL Draft

As teams continue to dive deeper into analytics to help inform organizational decisions, the idea of allowing free agents to walk in exchange for compensatory draft picks has picked up steam. Adding even more intrigue to these selections was the 2017 rule change that allowed teams to trade compensatory picks for the first time.

So, how do compensatory picks work?

The number of compensatory picks allotted each year is limited to the number of teams in the league (32), per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, compensatory picks are not divvied up equally among the teams and no team can receive more than 4 compensatory picks in a single year. To qualify for compensatory picks, teams must end up with more or better compensatory free agents lost than gained in a particular year.

Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks between rounds 3 and 7 based upon a formula, which is not released by the league, that takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards. While there is a general expected level of compensation for a player based on the amount he has signed for, his playing time (or lack thereof) in the upcoming season could alter the expectation.

The compensatory picks for the 2019 draft won't be determined by the NFL Management Council's formula until after the 2018 season is over, but in this post I'll attempt to project who will be receiving compensatory picks next year and the round in which those picks could fall.

Keep in mind: Players need to have been signed as unrestricted free agents before May 8 to qualify for the compensatory-pick formula. Players that were released by their previous team are not eligible for the formula, so they're not included in the key additions here.


Minnesota Vikings

Projected compensatory picks: Round 3; Round 6; two in Round 7.
Key free-agent losses: QB Case Keenum (Broncos), QB Sam Bradford (Cardinals), RB Jerick McKinnon (49ers), QB Teddy Bridgewater (Jets), C Brandon Fusco (Falcons).
Key free-agent additions: QB Kirk Cousins (Redskins), DT Sheldon Richardson (Seahawks).
The skinny: Based on salaries, I expect Cousins and Bradford to cancel each other out in the compensatory picks formula, while the addition of Richardson cancels out the loss of McKinnon. The loss of Keenum could net them a third-rounder. Bridgewater -- projected to fetch a seventh-rounder here -- has incentives in his contract that could turn his compensatory value into a fifth-rounder if he has a strong 2018 season.

New England Patriots

Projected compensatory picks: Two in Round 3; one apiece in Rounds 6 and 7.
Key free-agent losses: OT Nate Solder (Giants), CB Malcolm Butler (Titans), WR Danny Amendola (Dolphins), RB Dion Lewis (Titans), OT Cameron Fleming (Cowboys), CB Johnson Bademosi (Texans).
Key free-agent additions: DE Adrian Clayborn (Falcons), RB Jeremy Hill (Bengals).
The skinny: These compensatory picks are fairly cut and dried with the Patriots losing six qualifying free agents and gaining just two. The Patriots are no strangers to this list. They've been awarded at least one compensatory pick in each of the last five years.

Washington Redskins

Projected compensatory picks: Round 3; Round 5; two in Round 6.
Key free-agent losses: QB Kirk Cousins (Vikings), LB Trent Murphy (Bills), C Spencer Long (Jets), WR Ryan Grant (Colts), WR Terrelle Pryor (Jets).
Key free-agent additions: WR Paul Richardson (Seahawks).
The skinny: The Redskins signed Pernell McPhee and Orlando Scandrick, but they were both released in the offseason, so they will not count against Washington in terms of compensatory picks. They should have the maximum number of compensatory selections a team can receive coming their way.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Projected compensatory picks: Three in Round 6.
Key free-agent losses: OT Andre Smith (Cardinals), QB AJ McCarron (Bills), C Russell Bodine (Bills), RB Jeremy Hill (Patriots), DE Chris Smith (Browns).
Key free-agent additions: LB Preston Brown (Bills).
The skinny: The losses of Andre Smith and McCarron should be worth sixth-rounders, although McCarron's play for the Bills could trigger an earlier pick. Chris Smith should also bring the Bengals a sixth-rounder.

Los Angeles Rams

Projected compensatory picks: Two in Round 3; one in Round 7.
Key free-agent losses: WR Sammy Watkins (Chiefs), CB Trumaine Johnson (Jets), DB Cody Davis (Jaguars).
Key free-agent additions: None.
The skinny: While the Rams made some marquee additions this offseason, they did it via trade (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib) and by signing a player (Ndamukong Suh) who was released by his previous team, so those moves won't factor in the compensatory formula. The Rams lost Watkins and Johnson to big-money contracts, which should net them a couple of third-round compensatory picks. The departure of Davis puts them on track to also gain a seventh-round pick.

Philadelphia Eagles

Projected compensatory picks: Round 4; two in Round 6.
Key free-agent losses: TE Trey Burton (Bears), DT Beau Allen (Buccaneers), CB Patrick Robinson (Saints), RB LeGarrette Blount (Lions), K Caleb Sturgis (Chargers).
Key free-agent additions: LB Corey Nelson (Broncos), DT Haloti Ngata (Lions).
The skinny:Vinny Curry was a cap casualty, so he won't count as a free-agent loss in the compensatory formula, but even without him, the Eagles lost five likely qualifiers while adding just two.

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Atlanta Falcons

Projected compensatory picks: Round 4; Round 5.
Key free-agent losses: DT Dontari Poe (Panthers), WR Taylor Gabriel (Bears), DE Adrian Clayborn (Patriots).
Key free-agent additions: C Brandon Fusco (Vikings).
The skinny: The loss of Clayborn will be cancelled out by the addition of Fusco, which means Poe and Gabriel should bring the Falcons a fourth- and fifth-round pick, respectively.

Carolina Panthers

Projected compensatory picks: Round 3; Round 6.
Key free-agent losses: OG Andrew Norwell (Jaguars), DT Star Lotulelei (Bills), TE Ed Dickson (Seahawks).
Key free-agent additions: DT Dontari Poe (Falcons).
The skinny: Norwell's big payday from Jacksonville meant the Panthers would have to find a new starting guard, but it also means that they'll be picking up a third-round comp pick. Poe and Lotulelei should cancel each other out. The loss of Dickson should net the Panthers a sixth-rounder.

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Baltimore Ravens

Projected compensatory pick: Round 4.
Key free-agent losses: C Ryan Jensen (Buccaneers), TE Benjamin Watson (Saints).
Key free-agent additions: WR John Brown (Cardinals).
The skinny: Watson and Brown should cancel each other out. Jensen is projected to net the Ravens a fourth-rounder, but there's a chance that pick could turn out to be a third-rounder.

Dallas Cowboys

Projected compensatory pick: Round 4.
Key free-agent losses: LB Anthony Hitchens (Chiefs), OG Jonathan Cooper (49ers).
Key free-agent additions: DE Kony Ealy (Jets), OT Cameron Fleming (Patriots).
The skinny:Orlando Scandrick was a cap casualty for the Cowboys and Allen Hurns was cut by the Jaguars, so they won't count in this process. Hitchens should bring them a fourth-rounder.

Indianapolis Colts

Projected compensatory pick: Round 4.
Key free-agent losses: WR Donte Moncrief (Jaguars), RB Frank Gore (Dolphins).
Key free-agent additions: WR Ryan Grant (Redskins), DE Denico Autry (Raiders), OG Matt Slauson (Chargers).
The skinny: There won't be any free-agent addition that cancels out their top loss, Moncrief, which means the Colts will likely receive a fourth-round pick unless Moncrief has a monster year and somehow pushes it to a third-rounder. Gore's not projected to net them a pick here, although it's possible he'll bring them a seventh-rounder based on his playing time.

Detroit Lions

Projected compensatory pick: Round 5.
Key free-agent losses: CB D.J. Hayden (Jaguars), LB Tahir Whitehead (Raiders), DT Haloti Ngata (Eagles).
Key free-agent additions: RB LeGarrette Blount (Eagles), LB Devon Kennard (Giants), LB Christian Jones (Bears), TE Luke Willson (Seahawks), OG Kenny Wiggins (Chargers).
The skinny: The Lions' top loss -- Hayden -- should end up netting them a fifth-round pick.

Kansas City Chiefs

Projected compensatory pick: Round 6.
Key free-agent losses: WR Albert Wilson (Dolphins), CB Terrance Mitchell (Browns), OG Zach Fulton (Texans), DT Bennie Logan (Titans), LB Derrick Johnson (Raiders).
Key free-agent additions: WR Sammy Watkins (Rams), LB Anthony Hitchens (Cowboys).
The skinny: The loss of Wilson will be cancelled out by the addition of Watkins, while Fulton's loss will be cancelled out by the addition of Hitchens. Once the math is completed, the Chiefs will likely end up with either a sixth- or seventh-round pick for the loss of Mitchell.

Arizona Cardinals

Projected compensatory pick: Round 7.
Key free-agent losses: WR Jaron Brown (Seahawks), LB Kareem Martin (Giants), CB Tramon Williams (Packers), WR John Brown (Ravens).
Key free-agent additions: QB Sam Bradford (Vikings), OG Justin Pugh (Giants), OT Andre Smith (Bengals).
The skinny: The Cardinals lost much more than they gained when it comes to players that will qualify for the compensatory formula, but I don't expect some of the lower-end losses to net them compensation. At the end of the day, Jaron Brown could bring them a seventh-rounder.

Los Angeles Chargers

Projected compensatory pick: Round 7.
Key free-agent losses: DE Jeremiah Attaochu (49ers), OG Matt Slauson (Colts), OG Kenny Wiggins (Lions).
Key free-agent additions: TE Virgil Green (Broncos), K Caleb Sturgis (Eagles).
The skinny: Free-agent addition Mike Pouncey was released by the Dolphins and does not qualify for the formula. I expect the Chargers to land a seventh-round pick based on Wiggins' departure.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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