Compensatory picks since 2006
|Compensatory picks||Total chart value|
|New York Giants||8||197.4|
|New York Jets||9||191.7|
If we’ve learned anything about Ted Thompson over the last decade, it’s the Green Bay Packers general manager deals in draft picks, not disclosure, this time of year.
Whatever light Thompson allows to peek through the shutters is usually broad and not relevant to what he actually thinks about a draft class. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t deceive. He simply says nothing.
However, his actions have spoken for him over the years, particularly when it comes to free agency. Nine years on the job, Thompson often has reaped the rewards of the NFL’s compensatory system by shunning highly coveted players in free agency.
Established in 1994 to reimburse teams for their losses, the system has allowed Thompson to cultivate 13 compensatory selections since 2006 with nine coming in the fifth round or earlier.
That’s tied for only seventh-most among NFL teams in terms of quantity, but another factor to consider is the quality of the compensation Thompson has received during that span.
Based on the NFL draft-value chart, Baltimore (737.2 points over 24 picks) and Cincinnati (512 over 17) have utilized compensatory picks to the fullest since 2006. The total value of their selections equal that of a top-40 draft choice.
The Packers aren’t far behind. Thompson’s haul — one compensatory third-round pick, four fourths, fourth fifths and four sevenths — represents the fifth-most value (361.8) and equates to that of a late second-rounder.
Thompson has missed on a few of his extra swings — 2012 fourth-round safety Jerron McMillian lasted barely a year — but he’s also uncovered Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton, cornerback Davon House and two promising defensive linemen in Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd.
This week, the Packers will welcome two more compensatory players, a third-rounder they received for receiver Greg Jennings and a fifth-rounder gained through outside linebacker Erik Walden signing a four-year deal with Indianapolis last offseason.
“If we could, we’d have more. More is better; it gives you better odds,” said Thompson, who has four picks in the top 100. “I think they’re quite helpful, ours this year are pretty good being at the end of the rounds ... but it is what it is. You can’t trade them, so they’re different. There’s some times when you wish you could.”
Thompson is right about not being able to trade compensatory picks, but Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has shown you don’t necessarily need to part with them to benefit from their leverage.
Four of Baltimore’s eight picks in the 2014 draft have come through the compensatory process. Speaking with the media last week, Newsome said that’s what allowed him to ship his fourth- and fifth-round picks to Jacksonville in October to acquire left tackle Eugene Monroe.
“Not to go into a whole lot of detail because I don’t care if 31 other clubs understand how we go about getting compensatory picks — we like picks,” said Newsome told reporters. “We all like picks, but what we do as far as trying to get compensatory picks. We take some stress, a lot of stress during free agency. There are a lot of good players who sign with other teams and we lose a lot of good players, but we maintain the patience and we’ll try to sort through other areas to try to get players.”
New York Jets general manager John Idzik told reporters last week the “compensatory draft-pick system is always in your mind. It’s not the determinant, but it's a factor.”
Two teams — Denver and New Orleans — are perennial frontrunners despite adding only two compensatory picks in eight years. Seattle has had nine in that span, but only one inside the seventh round prior to winning this year’s Super Bowl.
Hoarding picks doesn’t mean guaranteed success, either. Tennessee is tied with Pittsburgh for the third-most compensatory opportunities (16) since 2006 but hasn’t made the playoffs in five years.
There was some speculation Thompson might engage more in free agency this offseason to address recurring defensive issues, but he again stayed true to his principles.
Thompson brought in defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion in March, but since neither player was an unrestricted free agent — both were “street” signings after being released — Green Bay likely will be able to cash in next year following the loss of center Evan Dietrich-Smith and receiver James Jones.
Such is life for teams willing to sacrifice present-day luxuries to invest in their future.
“I think there is a lot of luck with the draft. That’s why we value picks as much as we do,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta told reporters. “The more picks you have, the more chance you have of getting lucky on a guy. Our whole mindset is get as many picks as you can and just pick the best available players. We try to make it a science. In the end, it’s probably more art than science.”
—whodkiew@pressgazette media.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.