CB Marcus Hamilton was the product of a compensatory pick last year, and the Bucs still believe that Uconn
When the seventh round of the NFL Draft rolls around this April 27th, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' personnel men aren't going to know what to do with themselves.
That hour or two late on Sunday of draft weekend is usually a very busy time for the Bucs' brass. Over the last nine years, Tampa Bay has feasted on the seventh round, making 24 total picks over that span – nearly three per season even though they had none in 2003.
The main reason the Buccaneers have traditionally been so active during the draft's denouement: Compensatory picks.
During the first 14 years that the NFL awarded compensatory picks (1994-2007), the Buccaneers were granted 16 of them. The majority of such picks are placed at the end of the seventh round. Last year, for instance, Tampa Bay received two compensatory picks, both of them at the tail end of the seventh round – the 245th and 246th selections overall, to be exact.
This year, however, Tampa Bay was not one of the 15 teams that received compensatory picks. That list was distributed by the NFL on Monday, and Baltimore and Cincinnati led the way with four additional picks each. This marks the first time in eight years that the Bucs have not been on that list. From 2001-07, the Bucs collected a total of 12 compensatory picks.
Of course, the fact that Tampa Bay is one of the 17 teams without draft pick compensation means there was nothing to be compensated for. The system of compensatory picks was introduced with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 1993 – yes, the CBA that brought true free agency to the NFL. The additional picks are meant to make up for a net roster loss in free agency the year before.
Last year, according to the complicated formula utilized by the NFL's Management Council, the Buccaneers gained more than they lost via free agency. Thus, no extra picks.
Specifically, Tampa Bay watched guard Sean Mahan, defensive end Dewayne White and tackle Cornell Green depart as free agents while welcoming newcomers quarterback Jeff Garcia, linebacker Cato June, fullback B.J. Askew, tight end Jerramy Stevens and fullback B.J. Askew to town. (Only players who were true unrestricted free agents are plugged into the Management Council's equation; thus, a player who was released by his previous team, such as Kevin Carter, has no effect on the outcome.)
Given that a free agency loss for one team is always going to be balanced by a gain for another team, the entire compensatory pick production is a closed system. Each year, the NFL hands out exactly 32 such picks, usually hitting about half of the teams in the league.
There is also the matter of where these picks are slotted into the draft, which may be even more important than how many selections each team gets. The picks start after the third round and are tacked onto the end of each subsequent round. The highest compensatory pick the Buccaneers have ever been awarded was a third-rounder in 1997, which they used to grab linebacker Alshermond Singleton. Singleton was a strong special teamer during his six years as a Buccaneer and he eventually emerged as a starter on the 2002 Super Bowl team.
Doling out the 32 picks is not simply a matter of counting up the number of free agents signed and lost by each team, though that is the basic concept of the system. The Management Council's formula takes into account salary, playing time and postseason honors for the players who came and went to arrive 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. Atlanta, for instance, lost only three players, but those three men – fullback Justin Griffith, defensive end Patrick Kerney and wide receiver Ashley Lelie – collectively were judged to have significantly more value than the two players signed by the Falcons – fullback Ovie Mughelli and cornerback Lewis Sanders.
Thus, the Falcons were one of the four teams to get a pick after the third round this year; in order, those teams are Washington, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Baltimore. Philadelphia, Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee and Green Bay were all surely thrilled to get picks at the end of Round Four and San Diego was awarded the only post-Round Five choice. The remaining 22 compensatory picks fall after the sixth and seventh rounds.
Of course, those later picks can be helpful, too. Last year, the Bucs used their two extra seventh-rounders to select Virginia cornerback Marcus Hamilton and Alabama running back Kenneth Darby. Darby got a late-season promotion to the active roster, but the two spent most of the season together on Tampa Bay's practice squad. The Bucs saw promise in both young men in 2007 and will bring them back to training camp this summer. Another player the team picked up with a seventh-round compensatory pick in 2006, defensive end Charles Bennett, also remains with the team after spending all of last year on injured reserve.
Barring a trade, the Bucs will be done after the fifth round in this year's draft. Previous trades have shipped out the team's sixth and seventh-rounders already, leaving Tampa Bay with potentially its smallest draft class since 2000.
This is now the 15th year of compensatory picks, and over that entire span the Baltimore Ravens have received the most extra selections, with a total of 29. Dallas is next at 26 and both Philadelphia and St. Louis have collected a total of 25. The Bucs' net of 16 picks in those 15 years is the 11th-highest total on the list.
The 2008 NFL Draft will be held the weekend of April 26-27. The first two rounds will be conducted on Saturday and the remainder of the draft on Sunday. The Bucs are currently scheduled to pick 20th in the first round, then alternate with the Washington Redskins between the 20th and 21st picks the remainder of the way. With the 32 compensatory picks added in, there will be a total of 252 selections in the draft. New England and San Francisco each lost a pick due to rules infractions and Baltimore and San Diego each utilized one of their picks in last summer's supplemental draft.