In 2017, the Bengals entered the draft with 11 selections after being awarded four compensatory picks due to the losses of key free agents Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson and Andre Smith. Ironically, Smith is now back with the Bengals.
Because he’s back and was signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Smith’s addition to the team is expected to negate a sixth round compensatory pick the Bengals would have received for losing running back Rex Burkhead this offseason. Similarly, the addition of linebacker Kevin Minter is expected to negate the loss of nose tackle Domata Peko in free agency (which also would have been worth a sixth round pick).
This is all according to Over the Cap, which has projected every compensatory selection for the 2018 NFL Draft. In case you need a refresher, compensatory picks are draft selections awarded to NFL teams who lose qualifying free agents in the prior offseason. Free agents lost to the Bengals in 2017 turn into compensatory picks in 2018. Salary and playing time are factors that go into deciding the exact value and placement in the draft of a compensatory pick, but, the exact formula the NFL uses is unknown.
For the Bengals, OTC has the team receiving three total compensatory picks in 2018. Those picks are a Round 3 selection in exchange for right guard Kevin Zeitler, a round 5 pick in exchange for offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and a Round 7 pick for defensive end Margus Hunt. Linebacker Karlos Dansby also qualifies as a player for whom the Bengals could receive a compensatory pick, but, OTC does not expect them to get the pick due to there being too many higher qualifying compensatory picks across the NFL. Dansby is actually the first player over the limit of 32 total compensatory picks awarded for all NFL teams.
For what it’s worth, OTC projected the Bengals would receive two fourth round and two sixth round compensatory picks in 2017. But, the team wound up with one pick in each round on day three (4-7). So, the total number of picks was correct, but, the rounds in which they were awarded was not.
Regarding the underwhelming fifth round pick for Whitworth, when a player leaves a team in free agency after 10+ years, the compensatory pick is limited to being a fifth rounder, at best. The same logic holds true for Peko.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, OTC projects the Ravens to get Round 3 and 7 compensatory picks in exchange for Ricky Wagner and Vladimir Ducasse, respectively. The Steelers are expected to get a fifth rounder for Lawrence Timmons. And, the Browns are not slated to get any comp picks.