It's almost impossible to project comp picks for next year at this stage since any future signings can change the landscape significantly (and the playing time, post season honors, etc have yet to be taken into account), but I thought it would be helpful to see what kind of potential we have right now and if this should really handcuff the Bengals from making a move that would help the team win more games in 2014.
Michael Johnson's contract averages $8.75M per year. That ranks him 4th amongst all eligible UFAs right now. Ahead of him are Aqib Talib (NE->DEN), Brandon Albert (KC->MIA) and Jairus Byrd (BUF->NO). NE has signed two qualifying players and lost two so they would not get a pick for him as it stands now. KC has lost six and signed two, so it's almost assured Albert qualifies, netting KC the first 3rd round comp pick in next year's draft. BUF has signed four and lost one so far Even if CLE signs Arthur Moats and someone signs Alex Carrington as is expected, they still wouldn't earn a comp pick for Byrd. This means the Bengals should get the second 3rd round comp pick in 2015.
Anthony Collins' contract averages $6M per year ranking him 15th (tied with Karlos Dansby, Zane Beadles and Austin Howard). Ahead of Collins are players from DEN (2), OAK (2), SF, DAL, BLT, MIA, TEN, NYG, SEA, ARZ and NYJ. Of those teams six have lost more players than they've signed. Historically this APY nets a 4th or 5th round pick depending upon playing time. Despite Collins' playing time likely being very high (OTs tend to play 100% when healthy) the contracts ahead of him likely push his comp pick down to the 5th round.
So at this point you as Mike Brown you have to ask yourself: is signing a backup/depth guy like Vladimir Ducasse worth losing a 5th round pick? Probably not. Would you do it to fortify a starting spot? Absolutely, but I don't see who we'd go after at this point that deserves to put a current starter on the bench (or out of a job). Thus I fully expect the team to wait this out and look to sign someone post-June 1st or someone for less than the comp pick qualifying amount.
By the way, the comp picks for this year's draft will be announced in less than two weeks during the owners' meeting. The Bengals are projected to earn a 6th and two 7ths (link).
UPDATE 4/3: With most of the major FA's off the market, we can take another look at potential comp picks.
NE (Talib, $9.5M APY) will qualify as a 3rd round
KC (Albert, $9.4M) same
CIN (Johnson, $8.75M) same
DEN (Rodgers-Cromartie, $7M), BLT (Jones, $6.6M), NYG (Joseph, $6.25M), SEA (Tate, $6.2M) are the next qualifying losses and look to be the only comp picks ahead of Collins ($6M). BUF, OAK, DAL, MIA, TEN, ARZ and NYJ all have signed more UFAs than they've lost.
Also, based on this year's comp pick rounds Collins will certainly qualify as a 4th round pick assuming he plays most of the year. The 4th/5th round cut-off this year was about $5.25M all things being equal. So the decision to pass on a backup like Ayers in order to protect a 4th round pick should be viewed positively. The situation would be different if there is a free agent game changer for us but those ships have long since sailed.
Note: the contracts signed by Newsome, Stanford, etc. will be too low to qualify for the comp pick formula (unless they reach the Pro Bowl or similar but no one should go to Vegas with that expecting to happen).