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Projecting compensatory picks for 2018 NFL Draft

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Compensatory picks have garnered a greater percentage of the conversation in NFL circles in recent years as team philosophies have been changing regarding free agency and, for the first time ever, teams were allowed to trade compensatory picks in 2017 thanks to a rule change.

Many teams are opting to allow their players to depart via free agency en masse and collect compensatory picks rather than re-signing these players.

So, how do compensatory picks work?

The number of compensatory picks allotted each year is limited to the number of teams in the league (32), per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, compensatory picks are not divvied up equally among the teams and no team can receive more than 4 compensatory picks in a single year. To qualify for compensatory picks, teams must end up with more or better compensatory free agents lost than gained in a particular year.

Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks in Rounds 3-7 based upon a formula, which is not release by the league, that takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards. While there is a general expected level of compensation for a player based upon the amount he has signed for, playing time (or lack thereof), will often alter the expectation by the end of the season.

The compensatory picks for the 2018 draft won't be determined by the NFL Management Council until after the 2017 season is over, but in this post I will attempt to project and explain who might be getting picks and where they could fall.

Here are the teams I project to receive compensatory picks in 2018, listed from most picks to least:

TEAMS PROJECTED TO RECEIVE 4 PICKS

Cardinals

Projected compensatory picks: Four -- Round 3 / Round 4 / Round 5 / Round 6
Key free-agent losses: Calais Campbell (Jaguars), Marcus Cooper (Bears), Tony Jefferson (Ravens), D.J. Swearinger (Redskins)
Key free-agent additions: Phil Dawson
Skinny: I expect Campbell will bring a third-rounder while Jefferson should bring a fourth-rounder. Cooper is expected to bring a fifth-rounder with D.J. Swearinger's departure bringing a sixth-rounder.

Cowboys

Projected compensatory picks: Four -- Round 4 / Three picks in Round 5
Key free-agent losses: Brandon Carr (Ravens), Barry Church (Jaguars), Ronald Leary (Broncos)
Key free-agent additions: Nolan Carroll
Skinny: The Cowboys' secondary was picked clean by free agency, but Leary's departure to Denver is the loss that is expected to bring in a fourth-round compensatory pick. If not for the cap on compensatory picks a team can receive in a single year, the Cowboys would be in line for as many as six in 2018.

Packers

Projected compensatory picks: Four -- Round 3 / Round 5 / Two picks in Round 7
Key free-agent losses: Jared Cook (Raiders), Micah Hyde (Bills), Eddie Lacy (Seahawks), T.J. Lang (Lions), JC Tretter (Browns)
Key free-agent additions: Martellus Bennett, Jahri Evans
Skinny: The loss of Hyde was cancelled by the addition of Bennett, but the losses of Lang and Tretter should bring third- and fifth-rounders, respectively. Cook and Lacy will bring either sixth- or seventh-round picks, but that is dependent upon snap count, which might not be high enough considering the positions they play.

Raiders

Projected compensatory picks: Four -- Round 5 / Round 6 / Two picks in Round 7
Key free-agent losses: Stacy McGee (Redskins), Latavius Murray (Vikings), Malcolm Smith (49ers), Menelik Watson (Broncos)
Key free-agent additions: Jared Cook, Cordarrelle Patterson
Skinny: The loss of Watson could bring a fifth-rounder, while the other departures might not bring more than a sixth- and two seventh-rounders.

* * *

TEAMS PROJECTED TO RECEIVE 3 PICKS

Bengals

Projected compensatory picks: Three -- Round 3 / Round 5 / Round 7
Key free-agent losses: Karlos Dansby (Cardinals), Margus Hunt (Colts), Andrew Whitworth (Rams), Kevin Zeitler (Browns)
Key free-agent additions: Kevin Minter
Skinny: Both Zeitler and Whitworth received contracts that could qualify them for third-round compensatory picks, but Whitworth has more than 10 years in the league so the maximum the Bengals can expect is a fifth-rounder for him, per rules governing compensatory picks. The Bengals also have a chance to land a seventh-rounder with the departures of Karlos Dansby or Margus Hunt.

Texans

Projected compensatory picks: Three -- Round 3 / Two picks in Round 6
Key free-agent losses: A.J. Bouye (Jaguars), Quintin Demps (Bears), John Simon (Colts)
Key free-agent additions: None
Skinny: The loss of Bouye should result in a third-round compensatory pick for the Texans, while the losses of Demps and Simon should bring sixth-rounders based on their salaries and expected usage.

* * *

TEAMS PROJECTED TO RECEIVE 2 PICKS

Patriots

Projected compensatory picks: Two picks in Round 4
Key free-agent losses: Martellus Bennett (Packers), Logan Ryan (Titans), Jabaal Sheard (Colts)
Key free-agent additions: Stephon Gilmore
Skinny: The Patriots should be receiving two picks, but the level of compensation will be partially determined by how Sheard performs with the Colts and Bennett performs with the Packers. We will project performances and snap counts on the high side to go along with their annual compensation totals, which should create fourth-round compensation for both.

Vikings

Projected compensatory picks: Two -- Round 6 / Round 7
Key free-agent losses: Matt Kalil (Panthers), Cordarrelle Patterson (Raiders), Adrian Peterson (Saints), Andre Smith (Bengals)
Key free-agent additions: Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers
Skinny: I'm projecting the Vikings' top four losses will all be cancelled out by their top four additions. However, I do expect them to get sixth- or seventh-rounders for Andre Smith and Adrian Peterson, depending on snaps.

* * *

TEAMS PROJECTED TO RECEIVE 1 PICK

Broncos

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 3
Key free-agent losses: Russell Okung (Chargers), Sylvester Williams (Titans)
Key free-agent additions: Ronald Leary, Menelik Watson
Skinny: They should be receiving a third-rounder for the departure of Okung.

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Chargers

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 7
Key free-agent losses: Manti Te'o (Saints), Danny Woodhead (Ravens)
Key free-agent additions: Russell Okung
Skinny: The Chargers won't qualify for a compensatory pick for Woodhead with the addition of Okung cancelling that out, but the loss of Te'o to the Saints could bring the Chargers a seventh-rounder if he can find the field for New Orleans.

Chiefs

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 6
Key free-agent losses: Nick Foles (Eagles), Dontari Poe (Falcons)
Key free-agent additions: Bennie Logan
Skinny: The loss of Poe was cancelled out by the addition of Logan, so the best possible outcome for the Chiefs would be to receive a fifth-round compensatory pick for Foles. However, since the value will be based not only on annual contract amount but also playing time, it's likely that the Chiefs will be receiving a sixth-rounder.

Giants

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 4
Key free-agent losses: Johnathan Hankins (Colts)
Key free-agent additions: None
Skinny: The departure of Hankins to the Colts should cement a fourth-round compensatory pick for the Giants.

Ravens

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 3
Key free-agent losses: Ricky Wagner (Lions)
Key free-agent additions: Tony Jefferson
Skinny: Wagner's contract and playing time should guarantee the Ravens a third-rounder.

Steelers

Projected compensatory picks: One -- Round 5
Key free-agent losses: Lawrence Timmons (Dolphins)
Key free-agent additions: None
Skinny: The Steelers are in line to potentially receive a fifth-round pick for Timmons.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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