Cowboys Receive Comp 4th For Murray?

DeMarco's no longer with the Cowboys. So ... We take a look at the consolation prizes for teams that lose a lot of free agents, breaking down the mysterious compensatory picks.

The NFL New Year is here and it’s roaring loudly and busting wide open with player movement and activity. There have been several high-value contracts handed out, as well as a multitude of smaller deals as teams scramble to fill perceived holes and play keep-up with the Jones’ (literally, if we’re talking about the moves made in Philadelphia, Washington and New York). On the Dallas front, however, there hasn’t been any sign of substantial activity in regards to players from other teams coming over.

The Cowboys have, however, lost a handful of guys to the other 31 franchises. This in turn, has brought up the topic of future compensatory picks for the franchise. It’s not as sexy as discussing who a team is signing… but there isn’t any of that right now with this club.

Currently, and with many more free agent transactions left to come, Dallas is in line to receive two fourths, a fifth and a sixth round compensatory pick, with the possibility one of the fourths moves up to a third. Here’s the ledger as of DeMarco Murray signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Player LostContractAPYRound Player SignedContractAPYRound
Demarco Murray5 yr/ $42 million$8.4m4th     
Jermey Parnell5 yr/ $32 million$7m4th     
Bruce Carter4 yr/ $20.5 million$5.125m5th     
Henry Melton1 yr/$3.75 million$3.75m6th     
Justin Durant3 yr/ $10.8 million$3.6m6thXDarren McFadden2 yr/ $5.8 million;$2.9m6th
Dwayne Harris5 yr/ $17.5 million$3.5m6thXJed Collins1 yr/$810k$810k7th

Most thought that losing Murray to the deal he received would have netted Dallas a third rounder, but if our projections are correct (admittedly a big “if”), without factoring in playing time and postseason accolades, he isn’t quite there yet.

As you'll see below, the threshold for a third round comp pick is a deal that averages just under $9 million a year. We'll also explain how Jed Collins tiny deal wipes out Dwayne Harris' larger one, and why even though there are five players still eligible, Dallas would only get four picks.

Compensatory picks are awarded to clubs based on a formula that accounts for free agents lost and signed in the previous offseason. If Dallas loses more free agents (that fit the criteria) than they sign, then they will be awarded additional picks. Comp picks take place at the end of rounds 3-7, allocated after the normal 32 picks for the round. Any comp picks Dallas will receive for this current offseason will be awarded in the 2016 draft.

It’s basically comparable to trading a player for a future draft pick. Not a bad deal for a player you may not have wanted anything to do with.

The loss of these players to date was not unexpected. Dallas entered the league year with a staggering number of free agents, 23 to be exact. The club franchise tagged Dez Bryant, signed Doug Free and Cole Beasley and slapped RFA and ERFA tenders on Ron Leary, Lance Dunbar, Chris Jones and Darrion Weems. That brings the total number of Cowboys with a relatively likely chance of shopping around to 16. That number could grow, if someone signs an RFA with an offer sheet Dallas doesn’t match. Here’s a breakdown of Dallas’ Free Agents and whether they are comp pick eligible.

PlayerEligible for Compensation PlayerEligible for Compensation
Dez BryantFranchise Tagged Rolando McClainYes
Demarco MurrayYes Bruce CarterYes
Doug FreeRe-signed 3 years Justin DurantYes
Cole BeasleyRe-signed 4 years Sterling MooreNo (non-tendered RFA)
Dwayne HarrisYes Anthony SpencerYes
Jermey ParnellYes George SelvieYes
Lance DunbarYes (RFA) Nick HaydenYes
Ron LearyERFA Tendered Henry MeltonYes
Chris JonesYes (RFA) C.J. SpillmanYes
Darrion WeemsERFA Tendered James AndersonYes
Tyson CluttsYes Cam LawrenceYes
Tony HillsYes  

OK, so now.. what are the rules to calculating who will be awarded comp picks and how many they will get? The formula has been primarily unlocked by noted cap guy “AdamJT13” and we’re pulling work from both and in our projection of things moving forward for Dallas’ offseason.

  • 1 – There are only 32 compensatory picks available to be spread out amongst the 32 franchises, but they are not distributed equally. Also, no team can receive more than four compensatory picks in any one draft.
  • 2 – For each player a team signs, it cancels out a player that team lost. These are canceled out based on the value of the contracts. If a team loses a player valued as a third-round pick, and a player valued as a fifth round pick, but sign a player who’s valued as a third… then the team gets the fifth-round pick compensation. The third-round picks cancel out. However, if they sign a player who’s valued as a fourth, then he would cancel out the lower player, and said team would get compensated with the third-round pick.
  • 3 – The primary determining factor of which round a team is compensated with for a lost player is the Average Annual Value of that player’s deal with his new team. There are levels associated with each round of compensation and teams are slotted in order within those rounds based on the averages. Playing time and postseason awards are factored in at a much lesser weight.
  • 4 – Round tiers are based off a percentage of each year’s salary cap. The seventh round tier is based off of the four-year veteran minimum salary, $760k, although here, the playing time factor will eliminate several of these types of players.
  • 5- There are ways to sign players that won’t add to the “players signed” ledger. Players who are cut from other teams, players who were RFAs or ERFAs who weren’t tendered, players signed after June 1st.
  • 6- The player must stay with his new team through Week 10 of the next season to qualify.
  • 7- Per @Jason_OTC, multiple players cannot be rolled into a higher compensatory. For instance, Dallas having 5 players with the last two being 6th round comps, will not move it to a 5th rounder.

Another reminder, this is a simplification of the formula and rules to give an idea of what Dallas could be looking at as far as a comp pick haul in 2016. Using OTC’s stellar work, here’s what we can project the tiers are if the 2016 salary cap does indeed inflate to $153 million as some have suggested.

2015 Projected Cutoff% based on $140m cap2015 projection on actual cap2016 Projected on $153m cap
3RD/4TH $8,198,308.00 0.058559343 $8,387,923.15 $8,959,579.46
4TH/5TH $5,703,872.00 0.040741943 $5,835,794.41 $6,233,517.26
5TH/6TH $4,300,752.00 0.030719657 $4,400,222.25 $4,700,107.54
6TH/7TH $2,289,254.00 0.016351814 $2,342,201.17 $2,501,827.59
MINIMUM $730,000.00 0.005214286 $745,000.00 $760,000.00

So although Dallas signed Keith Rivers, because he was cut by Buffalo, he does not come into the equation. The signing of FB Jed Collins does, but the other FB Ray Agnew was a cut player, so he does not count in the equation. Dallas will surely sign players as free agency moves forward, but they will also likely lose additional players. Anthony Spencer, and George Selvie are both garnering interest, while Tyson Clutts could be a wash for Jed Collins, the man who replaced him.

Dallas had “one in the hole”, prior to signing RB Darren McFadden. Signing him at a 6th round compensation level, he takes up the "extra" slot Dallas had for losing Justin Durant. The order of the picks at the end of the round are determined based on the player’s salary. Detroit will clearly get the best compensatory pick provided they lose more than they sign, based on the huge deal Ndamakong Suh signed with Miami.

Again, this is an overview of the process, and what other teams do, the 2016 salary cap, playing time and postseason awards will all affect these projections. Still, it's a starting point if you're in need of some consolation for the Cowboys losing a lot more than they are gaining thus far in free agency.

Item by Item

*Dwayne Harris considers himself the NFL’s most versatile special-teamer and now the Giants will pay him that way, luring him away from Dallas with what sources tell us is a five-year, $17.5-million contract.

"Will be taking my talents to the Big Apple,'' Harris tweeted Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free-agency shopping period opened.

Harris caught just seven passes for 116 yards (with four carries for seven yards). But offense wasn’t his Cowboys forte as much as special-teams play was. He dipped a bit in 2014, averaging 24.7 yards per kick return and 9.2 yards per punt return. But the year before he averaged 30.6 yards per kick return and 12.8 yards per punt return, in addition to perennially being Dallas’ best kick-coverage guy. He also led the Cowboys with 18 special-teams tackles.

Meanwhile ... A couple of days ago we spoke to Justin Durant and despite his impending free agency, he was optimistic about returning to the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'm glad people are interested," The team captain told us. "And hopefully we get it done."

It turns out the "people'' that are most interested are the Atlanta Falcons, who are hiring away Durant after his two seasons in Dallas.

The Cowboys have prioritized the return of Rolando McClain, will get Sean Lee back from injury, have Anthony Hitchens coming off a fine rookie season, and have signed NFL veteran Keith Rivers to a deal.

But Durant was the consummate pro during his time here even as he missed two thirds of last season due to injury. He earned a reputation as a playmaker and was even voted team captain by his mates as he began his second year at Valley Ranch.

*We reported Monday afternoon that agent Tom Condon has no face-to-face meeting scheduled with the Joneses regarding client Dez Bryant's cap-compliance-deadline-beating "Cowboys For Life'' deal. This is not a good thing. We will monitor. Research here for how the Dez deal works.

We reported on Sunday that the "Tyron Trigger'' would happen before cap-compliance time, 3 p.m. Monday. It's done, and now Dallas has about $9 million of room (with Tyson's $8 mil of space created). In addition to DeMarco, Rolando McClain is a priority and Dallas is touching base there.

*The Cowboys are sitting on the Brandon Carr talks right now, likely to re-explore if/when needed.

*The Buccaneers signed Bruce Carter to $20.5-mil deal for four years. Last year Carter recorded 68 tackles with five interceptions. Henry Melton is also signing with Tampa. And Sterling Moore is visiting there.


*Should we be angry at Cowboys management for opting to avoid paying "star-market-value'' for a good player they think is replaceable? Should we be mad at DeMarco Murray for being told Dallas loves him near $6 mil and Philly loves him near $9 mil ... so he loves the $9 mil back more? We've got the details on DeMarco's departure to Philly here.

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