The Pittsburgh Steelers were awarded one compensatory draft pick in the fourth round for the 2021 NFL Draft, which they received for the free agency departure of Javon Hargrave, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. This was a fine and expected compensation for the loss, but it was projected by many that the team might also receive a sixth-round compensatory pick as well. They were not. Why?
Arguably the outlet most often referenced for compensatory formula projections is Over the Cap, with Nick Korte being the formula expert there, so to speak. After the compensatory picks were released, he wrote something of a post-mortem about where he went wrong (for the record, he got 30 of the 32 players correct, and 28 out of the 32 with the correct round). This is what he wrote pertaining to his projection of the sixth-round pick going wrong for the Steelers:
For Pittsburgh, I had thought that all of the contracts of Sean Davis, BJ Finney, and Tyler Matakevich would be valued as 6th rounders. But at least two of them had to be valued as 7th rounders instead. Because the signing of Derek Watt would cancel out the top 7th rounder, this shifted the 6th rounder for Pittsburgh that I thought would make the 32 pick limit into a 7th for the departure of Nick Vannett that was well below that limit.
As a reminder, the Steelers lost five players in free agency who qualified for consideration in the compensatory formula, while signing two who qualified. Their losses were Javon Hargrave, Sean Davis, B.J. Finney, Tyler Matakevich, and Nick Vannet, ranked in that order of priority. Their gains were Eric Ebron and Derek Watt.
Watt and Ebron ended up cancelling out Davis and Finney, their two highest-qualifying losses outside of Hargrave, leaving only Matakevich and Vannett. While they qualified, they were not among the top 32 picks when factoring in the four-pick limit per team. In fact, no team was awarded any picks that qualified as low as the seventh round.
One could certainly imagine that perhaps the signing and playing implications of Davis’ and Finney’s deals factored in to possibly lower their value. Davis was cut before even making Washington’s 53-man roster and quickly re-signed with the Steelers. Finney was traded and only dressed for seven games, seeing no time on offense. Both players upon signing were projected to compete for starting jobs.
According to the CBA, Compensatory Free Agents will be awarded points toward their formula value for post-season awards, as well as playing time: “one point for each percent of the total offensive/defensive lays in which the player participated (excluding special teams) provided that the player participated in a minimum of 25% of the offensive/ defensive plays”.
Neither of them qualified. The final qualifying selection was for quarterback Chase Daniel, who signed a three-year deal averaging $4,350,000 with $5 million in guarantees. And so the Steelers will have only one compensatory pick this year, but in the fourth round. They should, however, have a nice haul in 2022.