Under Ted Thompson, compensatory draft picks have long been a significant part of the Green Bay Packers' draft strategy. In 2015 and beyond, that looks to be no different, as the Packers should be in line to add a few extra selections each of the next two years.
Before discussing those projections, however, it is necessary to go over the compensatory pick process in general.
At the NFL meetings each year, the league announces the extra picks awarded to each team. In short, picks are awarded after the third through seventh rounds as compensation for teams losing high-priced free agents the year before.
The NFL uses a highly secretive and proprietary formula to determine how picks are awarded. This formula takes into account the annual contract value of a departing free agent as well as some measure of the playing time he had in his first year with his new team. Honors, such as Pro Bowl or All-Pro status, are also weighed into the formula as well.
One key component here is that this is only applicable for unrestricted free agents lost. Compensatory picks are not awarded for "street free agents," players who were released by their old teams prior to the expiration of their contracts. Furthermore, a team that signs more players that it loses is not eligible for compensatory picks.
Finally, only 32 picks can be awarded - the league sets a cutoff there based on the formula, so therefore players ranked 33 and below will not result in extra picks. In addition, free agents signing league-minimum contracts elsewhere are not factored into the formula.
The Packers received two compensatory picks in 2014 - one third-round pick (used to draft tight end Richard Rodgers) and a fifth-rounder, which was spent on wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. The third-round pick was compensation for losing Greg Jennings to the Vikings, while the fifth-rounder was awarded because of Erik Walden's contract with the Colts.
For 2015, we need to look back at the Packers' 2014 free agency period. Here are the losses and gains from last year:
Evan Dietrich-Smith: $3.56 million/year (Tampa Bay)
James Jones: $3.33 million/year (Oakland)
Marshall Newhouse: $805,000 (Cincinnati)
C.J. Wilson: $795,000 (Oakland)
Julius Peppers: street free agent signing (Chicago)
Letroy Guion: street free agent signing (Minnesota)
Because the additions of Peppers and Guion do not count, the Packers could have up to four compensatory picks this year. Here is the projection for the Packers for 2015, courtesy of Over The Cap:
6th round (for Dietrich-Smith)
6th round (Jones)
7th round (Newhouse)
The 7th for Newhouse is the pick with the least amount of confidence. If the league takes playing time heavily into account, he might drop down below the cutoff for the top 32 picks, since he played about 34% of the Bengals' offensive snaps in 2014 (according to Pro Football Focus).
Still, the Packers are almost certain to have two extra 6th-round picks in 2015, which will give Thompson a few more shots at finding some role players and diamonds in the rough. We should know in the next few days exactly what picks will be awarded, as the league will announce them at the NFL Meetings.
This is a tougher projection, since the free agency period is not yet up. However, two former Packers are almost certain to bring in compensatory picks: cornerbacks Davon House and Tramon Williams. With their annual contract values worth $7 million (for Williams) and $6.25 million (House), those two appear to be slated for fourth-round picks in next year's draft.
Linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones would not bring compensatory picks back, since they were both released from their contracts.
Stay tuned for the compensatory pick announcement from the NFL Meetings this week.