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Eagles release L.J. Fort, Steelers no longer eligible for 2020 compensatory pick

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With Fort’s release, the Steelers no longer have a “net loss’ in the compensatory formula

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It was a scenario I brought up in an article back in May. If one of the players who left the Steelers in free agency in the 2019 offseason were to be released before Week 10 of the NFL season, the Steelers might lose out altogether on a compensatory draft pick. Although the scenario seemed unlikely, it was put more to rest in August when it appeared that Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James, and L.J. Fort would all make their respective teams.

Not anymore.

On Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles released L.J. Fort, a move that will help them gain an extra compensatory pick while causing the Steelers to no longer enter into the formula.

As a reminder for everyone, the way the compensatory formula works is a team must lose more eligible free agents than what they sign in a given offseason. Two of players the Steeler signed in 2019 did not factor into the formula. Mark Barron did not count because he was released by the Los Angeles Rams therefore he was not lost due to free agency. Additionally, Johnny Holden was in the same situation as well as being signed after the deadline two weeks after the NFL draft.

For the 2019 off-season, the Steelers lost three eligible players (Bell, James, and Fort) while they signed CB Steven Nelson and WR Donte Moncrief. Once a team is determined to have a “net loss” in eligible players, the round of a compensatory draft pick is determined by canceling players based on their round of designation. At the moment, all of these designations are estimated based on the yearly averaged salary of the players new contract because the other factors of playing time and postseason awards cannot be determined until after the season.

The Steelers had been predicted to be in line for a third-round choice because the signing of Steven Nelson was not designated in a high enough round to cancel Le’Veon Bell. Therefore Nelson canceled the loss of Jesse James and Moncrief canceled the loss of L.J. Fort.

While some people’s first thought may be Fort being the bottom man should not really affect the formula. But remember, it all comes back to players lost versus players gained. The only way the NFL can award a compensatory pick when there was not a net loss was if they determined a team to have an excess loss in value compared to value gained. For example, if a team were to lose two third-round compensatory value players while only signing two seventh-round players, the league could award a compensatory pick of whatever value they determine. Unfortunately, even with Le’Veon Bell holding a third-round value it appears there is not enough of an imbalance for the league to step in.

So what can the Steelers do to continue to be in line for a third-round compensatory pick? There is really only one solution: release Steve Nelson or Donte Moncrief before week 10.

In the article cited above, I made the case for the Steelers needing to cut Moncrief if the worst case scenario came about. When asking the opinion of those here at BTSC, it was an overwhelming opinion that Moncrief’s value to the team was more important then a third-round draft pick next year.

Enter the 2019 season.

After several trades, the Steelers no longer possess a first-round selection for 2020. Add in the fact the Steelers had already given up their third-round pick in trading up for Devin Bush, the only third-round selection the Steelers were believed to have was of the compensatory variety. What seem to not be a very important pick in May now seems much more important in September.

Additionally, Moncrief’s production has been less than stellar when stating it in the most positive way. Three catches for 7 yards on 11 targets does not paint a very good picture, especially when his last target resulted in an interception instead of a first down. Add the fact Moncrief was not active for the Steelers Week 3 game in San Francisco, his roster spot may be very much in jeopardy at this point.

If Moncrief was contributing in any positive way for the Steelers, I would say to forget about the draft pick and focus on winning now. But if Moncrief is going to not even be active on game day, why bother keeping their most-expensive receiver on the sidelines? While releasing Moncrief would carry a $1.75 million dead money hit this season and next, it would also save over $1 million towards the salary cap in 2019.

So what would you do? Playing Steelers GM for a day, would you release Donte Moncrief in order to keep your third-round compensatory selection? Would you make the move now when the decision would be much easier, or would you wait until Week 10 until you had to make the final decision in hopes that Moncrief’s production would increase? Please leave your thoughts below!

Poll

What should the Steelers do in regards to their lost 2020 compensatory draft pick?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Nothing. It is what it is.
    (46 votes)
  • 35%
    Cut Donte Moncrief right now! In fact, cut him last week if you could go back in time.
    (753 votes)
  • 62%
    Wait until the deadline gets closer and then make the call. There’s no need to rush.
    (1314 votes)
2113 votes total Vote Now