It can be a very confusing process.
One of the biggest mysteries of NFL fans and media is how the league determines compensatory draft picks each year. The information used to be very secretive, but it became much more accessible in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. Even so, it can be confusing and most fans just wait for others to report on where the team stands and if they are in line for draft picks in the coming season.
Luckily for you, the information is right here.
I already stated before that the Steelers should not be concerned about gaining a compensatory pick for the 2023 season. The fact that none of their unrestricted free agents have signed elsewhere at this time shows that this needs to be their philosophy.
As a quick reminder of how the compensatory formula works, a team is only eligible for a draft pick if they have lost more Compensatory Free Agents (CFAs) than what they gained. In order for a player to count as a CFA, they must have a somewhat significant salary as they will need to land in the top 35% of the league. For this reason, league minimum deals will not qualify. That exact number depends on the rest of the NFL, but if someone doesn’t sign for more than $2 million in a season it is highly unlikely they would qualify as a CFA. Once a team has more losses than gains, then the amount of their salary, along with playing time and postseason awards, will factor into how high the draft pick could be. But none of that matters if the team doesn’t lose more CFAs than they gain.
With the Steelers yet to lose any Unrestricted Free Agents to other teams, they currently have a net gain of five CFAs towards the 2023 compensatory formula. As a reminder, Street Free Agents, who are players who were released by their previous team and did not have their contract expire, do not qualify as CFAs. This should be noted because this is the category Myles Jack lands as he is not a CFA.
While there are other factors that will ultimately determine any compensatory draft picks teams could receive in 2023, it begins with the contract the player signed. Looking at the yearly average, players are designated into rounds for compensation.
Remember, other factors such as snaps played, All-Pro, and All-Conference selections factor into the equation once the 2022 season is complete. But for now, all estimates for compensatory draft picks come courtesy of overthecap.com and are based on the contracts signed and an estimated percentage of snaps played in the upcoming season.
As it stands now, the Steelers would need to lose FIVE players who are unrestricted free agents who qualify as CFAs. Even if they did lose that many players, they would have to not sign any more CFAs. For those curious about the information, exactly where the current players the Steelers have signed fall in the following rounds as reported by overthecap.com is as follows:
James Daniels ($8.83 million/year): Fifth round
Mitch Trubisky ($7.13 million/year): Sixth round
Mason Cole ($5.25 million/year): Sixth round
Levi Wallace ($4 million/year): Sixth round
At first glance, if you don’t truly understand how the compensatory formula works, you could believe that if the Steelers lost a player who gained a huge contract and was valued as a fourth-round compensatory pick than the Steelers would be in line to gain this for 2023. After all, isn’t a fourth-round pick higher than any other ones the Steelers have gained?
While I see how some could fall into the trap, they need to remember that the round a player qualifies in only comes into play after it has been determined that the team has a net loss. The Steelers have gained four players already in the compensatory formula, so they would have to lose the five players as stated above in order to have a net loss. Once that is the case, the cancellation procedure would kick in to determine which round that selection would be. But for the Steelers, they are very unlikely to reach that point in the 2022 offseason.
So as the 2022 NFL free agency period rolls on, don’t worry about if the Steelers are going to get a good compensatory pick for the 2023 NFL draft. While that ship has sailed, it was for a good reason as the Steelers made additions to their 2022 roster in free agency.