Second-year DE Charles Bennett was selected a year ago with a compensatory draft pick
T.J. Williams is toiling in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offseason training program, working himself back into playing shape after last summer's season-ending knee injury. Charles Bennett is working, too, hoping to use the spring to build on a promising end to his rookie season with the Buccaneers. Tim Massaquoi is down south a bit, preparing for his sophomore NFL season after playing in seven games with the Miami Dolphins last year.
What do Williams, a tight end out of North Carolina State, Bennett, a defensive end from Clemson, and Massaquoi, a tight end out of Michigan, have in common? All three entered the league as compensatory draft picks of the Buccaneers 11 months ago.
Next month, the Bucs will add two more players to this fraternity. On Monday, the team was awarded a pair of compensatory draft picks, both near the end of the seventh round. That puts Tampa Bay in position to exercise three seventh-round selections for the sixth time in the last seven years, (2001-07, with 2003 being the exception). Among the players the Bucs have taken in the seventh round in that span (not all on compensatory picks) are defensive end Joe Tafoya, fullback Casey Cramer, safety Hamza Abdullah and wide receivers Mark Jones and Paris Warren. All are still in the NFL.
Each spring, the league spreads a total of 32 compensatory draft picks among its clubs, all part of the original collective bargaining agreement that was put in place in 1993. First utilized during the 1994 offseason, the compensatory pick system is designed to reimburse teams, if you will, for net losses suffered through free agency.
It is not simply a matter of counting up the number of free agents signed and lost, though that is the basic concept of the system. The NFL's Management Council uses a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors for the players who came and went and arrives at a net gain or loss in player value for each team. Those that had a net loss are given extra picks; larger net losses lead to more and earlier selections. Cincinnati, for instance, will receive a seventh-round compensatory pick this year despite signing and losing two qualifying free agents. Through the system, the losses of quarterback Jon Kitna and tight end Matt Schobel were weighted more heavily than the gains of quarterback Anthony Wright and safety Dexter Jackson.
The Bucs' seventh-round windfall was the result of three free agency losses – Jackson, fullback Jameel Cook and tackle Todd Steussie – balanced against one signing, linebacker Jamie Winborn. The picks awarded are the third and fourth of 13 that will follow the natural end of the seventh round and complete the draft. They are picks number 245 and 246; Detroit will make the last pick of the draft, number 255, and determine this year's Mr. Irrelevant.
This year, the 32 compensatory picks were distributed to 16 teams, with Baltimore and New England getting four each. It might be said, however, that San Diego, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Oakland received the greatest rewards out of the system this year; each of those teams was awarded a pick following the third round, giving them excellent opportunities to land an impact player. Picking in the above order, they will execute selections number 96-99 (there are only 95 regular picks in the first three rounds because Cincinnati used its third-round pick to take Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks in last summer's supplemental draft. Compensatory draft picks cannot be traded.
Each of those teams above lost very high profile players in free agency in 2006. Among others, San Diego parted ways with quarterback Drew Brees, San Francisco lost linebacker Julian Peterson to Seattle, Indianapolis bid adieu to running back Edgerrin James and Oakland saw cornerback Charles Woodson move on.
Since 1994, the Buccaneers have been awarded a total of 16 compensatory draft picks. The highest compensatory pick ever executed by Tampa Bay was the fourth-rounder it was awarded in 1997, a choice that was spent on Temple linebacker Alshermond Singleton. Now a Dallas Cowboy, Singleton was a starter on the Buccaneers' 2002 Super Bowl championship team.
The Dallas Cowboys have received the highest number of compensatory picks over the 14 years the system has been distributing such assets, with 26, though they were not on the list this year. The Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams are next on the list, with 25 and 24 picks, respectively. The Cleveland Browns have received the fewest compensatory picks over that span, with just one. The Bucs total of 16 is tied for 10th most.
With the two additional picks, Tampa Bay is now slated to make nine selections in next month's draft, though trades could obviously affect that final total. The team owns its own picks in each round except the sixth, and is in possession of the Colts' second-round selection.
The 2007 NFL Draft will be held the weekend of April 28-29. The first three rounds will be conducted on Saturday and the remainder of the draft on Sunday. The Bucs are currently scheduled to pick fourth in the first round, then alternate with the Cleveland Browns between the third and fourth picks for the remainder of the draft. The Colts' second-round pick is the last one of the round, number 64 overall.