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NFL Draft: Compensatory Picks Rules, Formula, History and 2015 Projections

Josh Sitton, Malcolm Smith, Marques Colston and Tom Brady were all compensatory selections in the NFL draft.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With the NFL owners meetings underway this week, we'll likely hear the announcement of compensatory selections for the 2015 NFL Draft.

The NFL's 'official' formula for determining which round and number the picks will take place is not made public. However, many blogs and publications have been able to come close to accurately projecting picks each year.

With the picks typically awarded during the owner's meetings, here are the rules and formula explanation based on how the previous years have played out and the latest projections.

Rules and Formula

Compensatory picks are based on the salary, playing time and postseason honors of the free agents each team lost during the previous offseason. For example, the Detroit Lions should receive one of the top compensatory picks after losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins this offseason. That's mostly due to the massive contract he signed, but the fact Suh was named the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro also helps.

There are only 32 compensatory picks handed out each year, and they cannot be traded. You can eventually trade the player a compensatory pick is spent on (i.e. the Packers trading Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle), but the pick itself cannot be traded.

All 32 NFL teams are allowed up to four compensatory picks, and they're only awarded to clubs that signed fewer players than they lost via free agency. That does not include players cut, players released after signing the year before or players making the league minimum.

An example would be the Bengals losing Jermaine Gresham (when he signs somewhere), Marshall Newhouse (signed by Giants) and possibly Taylor Mays and Terence Newman. If all four of those guys were to sign elsewhere, the Bengals could earn compensatory picks based on how much they sign for.

Looking at Newhouse, the Bengals are projected to receive a seventh-round pick based on the contract he signed with the Giants, per Over the Cap. That's because Cincinnati lost him via free agency, and the players they've signed thus far (A.J. Hawk, Michael Johnson) were cut this offseason, thus, they don't take away from possible compensatory picks the Bengals may get.


You wouldn't think there were many, if any all-time greats that were compensatory picks, but you'd be gravely mistaken.

Packers All-Pro guard Josh Sitton, Seahawks Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, Saints all-time receiver Marques Colston and future hall-of-famer Tom Brady were all compensatory draft selections.

Other former compensatory selections include QB Matt Hasselbeck, S Pat Tillman, WR Pierre Garcon, S Antoine Bethea, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, LB Mike Vrabel and QB Aaron Brooks.

Needless to say, the extra picks teams get in the latter rounds of the draft can just as easily be franchise-changing picks like any other pick.

2015 Projections

The guys at Over the Cap are some of the best at projecting compensatory picks each year. Here are their latest projections:

DET 3 Ndamukong Suh $19,000,000
NE 3 Darrelle Revis $14,000,000
SEA 3 Byron Maxwell $10,500,000
DEN 3 Julius Thomas $9,200,000
DAL 4 DeMarco Murray $8,000,000
BAL 4 Torrey Smith $8,000,000
SF 4 Chris Culliver $8,000,000
BAL 4 Pernell McPhee $7,750,000
CLE 4 Jordan Cameron $7,500,000
DEN 4 Orlando Franklin $7,100,000
DAL 4 Jeremy Parnell $6,400,000
GB 4 Davon House $6,250,000
CLE 4 Buster Skrine $6,250,000
BUF 4 Da'Norris Searcy $5,937,500
CLE 5 Jabaal Sheard $5,500,000
CLE 5 Brian Hoyer $5,250,000
DET 5 Nick Fairley $5,000,000
SEA 5 James Carpenter $4,775,000
SF 6 Dan Skuta $4,100,000
BAL 6 Owen Daniels $4,083,333
NE 6 Shane Vereen $4,000,000
SF 6 Frank Gore $4,000,000
DAL 6 Henry Melton $3,750,000
SEA 6 Malcolm Smith $3,500,000
SD 6 Eddie Royal $3,333,333
NE 6 Akeem Ayers $3,000,000
PIT 6 Brice McCain $2,750,000
NE 6 Jonathan Casillas $2,666,667
IND 7 Sergio Brown $2,333,333
CIN 7 Marshall Newhouse $1,625,000
BAL 7 Tyrod Taylor $1,345,000
DET 7 Jed Collins $810,000
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
SEA ? O'Brien Schofield TBA
MIN ? Christian Ponder TBA
MIN ? Jasper Brinkley TBA
CAR ? James Dockery TBA