During the NFL free agency period of 2019, many fans of the Seattle Seahawks were glued to their chairs as the team picked and prodded its way through free agency, looking to improve the roster. One of the many questions that was asked anytime the team added a player or saw a former player sign elsewhere was, “What does this mean for the comp picks?!?!” In short over the past few seasons, many fans have become more concerned with the comp pick impact of signings than with the potential impact of the addition or loss of players themselves. So, with free agency just a matter of weeks away, it seems a good time to get an update on what the comp pick situation is projected to look like for the 2020 draft.
Before diving right into the update, I’m going to first explain what comp picks are, because I am sure there are at least a handful of readers who have no idea what they are and would love to understand what they’re being updated about. Thus, that’s where I’ll start.
To begin with, while everyone believes the NFL Draft is seven rounds long, it’s technically eight rounds. Feel free to do the math - there are 256 picks split among 32 teams. Divide those 256 picks by 32 teams, and it comes out to eight. So, if there are really eight rounds to the draft, why is the seventh round the last round?
The eighth round is sort of a shadow round. It’s true that every team is allocated one pick in each of seven rounds, and that is the core of the draft. However, those additional 32 picks do exist and comprise this invisible eighth round are handed out by the league each spring based on a secret formula of free agents lost and free agents gained in the prior offseason. Thus, when the league announces the official draft order for the 2018 draft, on top of the 224 picks each team automatically gets, some teams will be awarded additional picks based on their free agent losses and gains from 2019.
There are all kinds of complicated rules regarding how many comp picks a team can get, how they are awarded, where they fall in the draft and so on. However, for now, it’s sufficient to simply understand that these 32 picks will be awarded to different teams in round three through seven, and will fall at the end of the round after the traditional last pick in the round.
Looking at the 2019 NFL Draft as an example, here is how the 32 comp picks were broken up through the draft
- Round 1: 32 picks (comp picks are never awarded after the first round)
- Round 2: 32 picks (comp picks are never awarded after the second round)
- Round 3: 32* picks
- Round 3 Comp Picks: 7 picks
- Round 4: 32 picks
- Round 4 Comp Picks: 4 picks
- Round 5: 32 picks
- Round 5 Comp Picks: 3 picks
- Round 6: 32* picks
- Round 6 Comp Picks: 10 picks
- Round 7: 32 picks
- Round 7 Comp Picks: 8 picks
*The New York Giants and the Washington Redskins opted to use their 2019 third and sixth round picks, respectively, during the 2018 supplemental draft. The use of the picks at that time means the third and sixth rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft technically saw 31 selections made because of the early use of these picks by New York and Washington.
So, tallying up all the comp picks, that’s 32 picks that comprise the shadow eighth round of the draft, and as noted above, which are awarded to teams based on their free agency gains and losses in the prior offseason. For Seattle, the team saw several free agents who count towards comp pick calculations sign elsewhere, including:
- Earl Thomas,
- Justin Coleman,
- J.R. Sweezy,
- Shamar Stephen,
- Mike Davis,
- Brett Hundley and
- Mo Alexander.
On the flip side of the equation, the Seahawks added a couple of free agents who count towards the calculations in Mike Iupati and Jason Myers.
Iupati’s name being included in that list is a bit of a surprise because of the fact that Iupati signed a five year contract with the Arizona Cardinals back in 2015 that ran through the 2019 season. That contract was then renegotiated to make 2019 a voiding season, resulting in Iupati becoming a free agent last spring and signing with Seattle. Such a move by a team to use a renegotiation to terminate a contract early results in the player not being included in comp pick calculations so many observers, myself included, were operating under the belief that Iupati would not qualify in the formula.
However, comp pick guru Nick Korte of OverTheCap.com has recently clarified that he has been informed Iupati does indeed count in calculations because of a bit of a loophole. In short, according to a reliable source, per Korte, the renegotiation of a contract that leads to the contract ending after the current league year is excluded from comp pick calculations, while a renegotiation of a contract that ends after a future league year is included. Getting down to the nitty gritty of things, according to Korte the Cardinals redid Iupati’s deal in early 2017 prior to the start of the 2018 league year. That means when his contract voided at the end of the 2018 league year, it voided at the end of the league year after the league year in which the renegotiation had taken place, meaning it qualified for inclusion in the comp pick calculations.
Thus, Iupati’s signing cancels out the potential comp pick for Brett Hundley leaving for Arizona, and the release of running back Mike Davis prior to Week 10 means the Hawks lost five free agents while adding two. That gives the team a net loss of three free agents that count towards comp pick tabulations, and, assuming Korte is correct about Iupati, means the Hawks can receive no more than three comp picks in the upcoming draft.
As it stands currently, Korte projects the Hawks to receive the following comp picks:
- 3rd Round Pick (for the loss of Earl Thomas, should be somewhere around pick 100)
- 4th Round Pick (for the loss of Justin Coleman, should be somewhere around pick 143)
- 6th Round Pick (for the loss of Shamar Stephen, should be somewhere around pick 214)
That is on top of the picks the Seahawks currently hold, which includes a first round pick, two second round picks, one fourth round pick and one fifth round pick. That would be a total of eight picks, though it seems likely the Hawks will trade down out of 1.27 and pick up a couple more selections along the way.