The compensatory pick formula can be a bit mystical at times, even if we are slowly growing a more intimate understanding of how it works with each passing season by building off of case studies. Suffice it to say, however, that the Baltimore Ravens likely understand it better than any other organization, and they have profited from it more than any other as well.
Earlier today, they took action to preserve one of their projected 2020 compensatory draft picks in releasing safety Justin Bethel, a special teamer whom they signed as an unrestricted free agent. This move was in direct response to the Tennessee Titans releasing Brent Urban last week.
Urban, originally a Ravens draft pick, was one of their unrestricted free agents this offseason, and his signing with the Titans put them in line to receive a draft pick. Sources such as Over the Cap projected it to be of fourth-round value. But his release cancelled out their return, so in response, they released Bethel to preserve that pick.
“Justin Bethel, unfortunately, had to be released because of a funky rule that the NFL has with these compensatory picks“, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh just said. “A judgement has to be made in terms of the future as well. You guys can research that and figure all that stuff out. But that’s tough for us because I think he’s the best special teams player in the NFL. He’s playing that way. So that’s gonna be a blow”.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers were wise, they would follow suit by releasing wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who has been a non-participant for most of the season so far. The Philadelphia Eagles’ release of L.J. Fort earlier this offseason is believed by most familiar with the compensatory pick formula to have sacrificed the projected third-round pick they would have otherwise been in-line to receive for the loss of Le’Veon Bell.
As the Ravens did with the release of Bethel, Pittsburgh could regain their projected compensatory pick by releasing Moncrief. Is a pick at the end of the third round more valuable than the contributions they can expect to receive from Moncrief over the course of the next 10 games? It’s hard to imagine that it’s not.
There is still time before the move would have to be made in order for it to influence the compensatory pick formula, but there is no reason to believe the Steelers can’t find a workaround for Moncrief, considering that he has been inactive twice and has hardly played in a couple of other games as well.
While he seemed to be just starting to work his way back into the fold against the Los Angeles Chargers, that opportunity was provided only by the injury to James Washington, and to several others. If Washington is back healthy, Moncrief will likely be a healthy scratch again, with several others returning from injury.
And he can be easily replaced with Eli Rogers, somebody who already knows the Steelers’ system very well and who could play as soon as he’s signed. If there is one thing I would like to see Pittsburgh take from the Ravens, it would be a broader focus on the implications of the future.
I think Baltimore puts too much emphasis on the compensatory picks at times, but in this case, it’s pretty clear cut. A third-round pick for Moncrief.