LB Alshermond Singleton was the product of a compensatory pick almost identical to the one awarded to the Bucs on Tuesday
In 1997, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the 128th overall pick in the NFL Draft to select linebacker Alshermond Singleton from Temple. Singleton played six seasons for the Buccaneers, contributing heavily on special teams and taking over as the starting strongside 'backer in 2002.
Last week, Singleton left the Buccaneers through unrestricted free agency, signing with the Dallas Cowboys. How the Bucs will replace Singleton in 2002 has yet to be determined, but the answer to how they will replace him down the road may have arrived on Tuesday.
Singleton, you see, was the product of a compensatory draft pick at the end of the fourth round (128th overall) in 1997, the highest such selection ever awarded to the Buccaneers. Over the following five years, Tampa Bay was given six more compensatory picks, but none higher than the end of the sixth round.
However, on Tuesday, the Bucs learned that they have been awarded a pick at the end of the fourth round of the 2003 draft, the 36th selection in that round and the 133rd overall. It is the second-highest pick granted to Tampa Bay in the 11 years of the compensatory system.
Of course, there is no indication that the Bucs will or will not specifically target a linebacker in the fourth round, but there is certainly precedent for finding a future starter at that spot. Singleton's career in Tampa, coincidentally ending just before the Bucs' gained the extra pick, is an indication of the value of that additional selection.
The Bucs' windfall on Tuesday wasn't exactly unexpected, as it is part of an annual function in the Collective Bargaining Agreement designed to help balance free agency losses. Each year, teams that lost more compensatory free agents than they signed the previous spring are eligible to receive additional draft picks, usually positioned at the end of rounds three through seven. This season, 32 compensatory picks were awarded to 15 teams beginning at the end of the fourth round.
The Buccaneers received just one of those 32 picks, but it was one of the highest. The first compensatory pick will go to Philadelphia at the end of the fourth round, followed by Jacksonville and then Tampa Bay.
Other than the selection used on Singleton, all of the Bucs' previous compensatory picks had fallen in the sixth or seventh rounds, as a large majority of these picks do, league-wide. Last year, for instance, the Bucs were given three compensatory picks in last year's draft but all three were after the final round. While those picks are still valuable and still routinely produce solid pros, none of the three players selected with those picks – TE Tracey Wistrom, WR Aaron Lockett and G Zack Quaccia – played for the Bucs or elsewhere in the NFL last year.
By contrast, the last player selected by the Buccaneers in any fourth round who did not play at least one regular-season game in Tampa was CB Jerry Wilson in 1995. Wilson, however, went on to fashion a solid career with the Miami Dolphins. Recent fourth-round picks by the Buccaneers include Singleton, QB Craig Erickson, T Jason Odom, G Todd Washington, S Dexter Jackson, S John Howell and RB Travis Stephens.
The Bucs' draft-pick gain in 2003 is the result of a net loss of free agents last year, as determined by a formula developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula, but nine 2002 Buc signings and defections did fall into this category.
Last spring, Tampa Bay signed four key unrestricted free agents: G Kerry Jenkins, WR Joe Jurevicius, RB Michael Pittman and DE Greg Spires. However, they saw five unrestricted free agents depart: DT James Cannida, LB Jamie Duncan, RB Warrick Dunn, WR Jacquez Green and DE Steve White. The formulaic value of those lost players – particularly full-time starters Jamie Duncan and Warrick Dunn – helped determine the spot of the Bucs' compensatory pick. Among the elements figured into the formula are salary, playing time and postseason honors.
Teams can receive a maximum of four compensatory draft picks, and teams that had a net gain in free agency are not penalized picks. Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami, the New York Giants and St. Louis were all awarded four picks this year. The 32 compensatory choices announced Tuesday will supplement the 230 choices in the regular seven rounds of the 2003 NFL Draft.
There will be 33 regular picks in the fourth round before the compensatory selections begin because Houston, last year's expansion team, has been given an additional pick in the middle of rounds three through seven. Compensatory picks may not be traded.
Even with this year's high pick, the Bucs are not one of the teams that has routinely seen a significant benefit from the compensatory system. Tampa Bay is not among the 16 teams who have made at least 10 compensatory picks since 1993, a list led by Dallas at 23, Green Bay at 21 and Buffalo at 20.
The 2003 NFL Draft will be held on the weekend of April 26-27, with the first three rounds conducted on Saturday and the remainder of the picks exercised on Sunday. The Buccaneers now hold six picks, the compensatory selection plus their own choices in rounds two through six. The team's seventh-round pick belongs to Miami thanks to last August's mid-camp acquisition of T Cornell Green. As defending Super Bowl champions, the Buccaneers pick last in each round (before compensatory selections).