CB Marcus Hamilton, a Buccaneer in 2007 and 2008 who eventually ended up with the Bears, was drafted using a compensatory pick
Barring trades, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make three selections in the seventh round of the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft.
That's not unusual — Tampa Bay picked three times each in the final draft stanzas in 2007, 2006, 2004, 2001 and 1999, and four times each in 2005 and 2002 — but the path to that late-round bonanza is a bit different this time around.
Specifically, the Buccaneers are not the owners of any compensatory picks this spring. On Monday, the NFL announced the distribution of 32 compensatory picks in this year's draft to 16 teams, and the Bucs were not on the list. Instead, Tampa Bay has three seventh-rounders in its pocket in 2009 due to a series of previous trades.
The league hands out compensatory picks each year under terms laid out by the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 1993. Teams receive draft-pick compensation if, during the previous year, it lost more or better "compensatory free agents" than it acquired.
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. Last year, 15 teams received compensatory picks; this year it was 16, or exactly half.
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. In addition, not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by the formula.
The size of the net free agency deficit can be reflected in the number of compensatory picks a team receives as well as how high in the draft those picks are placed. Compensatory picks are slotted at the end of each round, beginning in round three. Generally, the majority of the extra picks come after the sixth and seventh rounds; this year, for instance, 19 of the picks fall into that category, with 15 of those 19 finishing up Round Seven. Compensatory picks may not be traded.
As an example, the New England Patriots were awarded three compensatory picks on Monday, including the first of just four picks that will come at the end of Round Three (number 97 overall). The Patriots also got an extra fifth-rounder (170th overall) and one after the sixth round (207th overall). Last offseason, New England lost cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Randall Gay as well as wide receiver Donte' Stallworth without adding any free agents who counted in the formula.
One club this year (Arizona) will receive a compensatory pick even though it did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents Arizona lost were ranked higher than the ones it signed. In addition, after the formula came up with just 30 compensatory picks, two additional choices were awarded at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory selections to 32, equaling the number of NFL clubs. The two additional picks were awarded to Detroit and Kansas City based upon the 2009 draft selection order.
Cincinnati and Tennessee led the way with four compensatory picks each this year, while Chicago, New England and Seattle all were awarded three. The four teams that received picks at the end of the third round were, in order, New England, Cincinnati, Chicago and the New York Giants.
The Buccaneers used free agency well in 2008, adding such key players as center Jeff Faine, tight end John Gilmore and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson. In the meantime, the Bucs saw the departure of such free agents as tight end Anthony Becht, cornerback Brian Kelly, running back Michael Pittman and center John Wade. When plugged into the Management Council's formula, those comings and goings were judged to be a net gain.
Coincidentally, the Bucs did net an extra seventh-round pick out of their free agency endeavors in 2008. Tampa Bay signed unrestricted free agent defensive end Marques Douglas from San Francisco but eventually traded him to Baltimore for the Ravens' 2009 seventh-rounder.
The Buccaneers had been on the receiving side of the compensatory ledger for seven straight years (2001-07) before coming up empty the last two years…though that obviously means the team found success on the free agency market in 2007 and 2008. Over the course of the 16 offseasons the NFL has awarded compensatory picks (1994-2009), the Bucs have received a total of 16 extra selections.
Cincinnati has netted a total of eight compensatory picks over the last two offseasons but overall has just 15 in the 16 years of the system. The team with the most overall compensatory picks through the years is Baltimore, whose 29 are one ahead of the 28 awarded to Dallas. The Cleveland Browns, with one, have the fewest; the New York Jets are next on that end of the list with five.
Perhaps the most notable player the Buccaneers have drafted with a compensatory pick is linebacker Alshermond Singleton, a product of the only third-round compensatory choice the team has ever received. Drafted in 1997, Singleton was a valuable reserve and special teams player for much of his career and was the Bucs' starter at strongside linebacker during their 2002 run to the Super Bowl title.
More recently, the Bucs used their 2007 compensatory picks, both seventh-rounders, on Virginia cornerback Marcus Hamilton and Alabama running back Kenneth Darby. Hamilton spent all of his rookie season on Tampa Bay's practice squad and started 2008 on that same unit before getting a brief promotion to the active roster and appearing in one game against Chicago. The Bears promptly signed Hamilton after he was released by the Bucs, and he saw action in eight more games for Chicago. Darby started the 2007 season on the Bucs' practice squad, too, before a late-season promotion to the active roster. Last year, Darby signed with the St. Louis Rams and played in 10 games, notching 32 carries for 140 yards and 19 receptions for 183 yards.
Obviously, then, compensatory picks can be of some value, even when placed at the end of the seventh round. The Bucs will not have any of those extra assets in the 2009 draft, but they will still be busy in the final hours of the selection process.
Though Tampa Bay traded away its own seventh-round pick to get guard Sean Mahan from Pittsburgh last spring, they also acquired three other seventh-rounders in a variety of additional swaps. The Bucs own Jacksonville's seventh-rounder, which they picked up as part of a trade down in the second round in 2008. They also possess a pick from Chicago after trading guard Dan Buenning to the Bears, and have Baltimore's selection from the aforementioned Douglas deal.
The 2009 NFL Draft will be held the weekend of April 25-26. The first two rounds will be conducted on Saturday and the remainder of the draft on Sunday. With the 32 compensatory picks added in, there will be a total of 256 selections in the draft.