The NFL's compensatory scam

The NFL awarded its compensatory picks Monday, much to the chagrin of Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

Somehow, the signing of Mewelde Moore was considered enough of a benefit to the Pittsburgh Steelers to offset the loss of Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca by two rounds worth of draft picks.

It was projected by many that the Steelers would receive a third or no worse than a fourth-round pick in compensation for losing Faneca to the Jets for a contract that averages $7.8 million per season, one of the richest awarded last season to a player who changed teams.

The Steelers also lost starting linebacker Clark Haggans to Arizona for a three-year deal for which terms were not disclosed. That means Haggans likely signed for the veteran minimum and a slight bonus.

Instead, the Steelers received a fifth-round pick, the 169th overall selection in the draft.

Go figure.

Fans and media alike have been pondering the league's formula for compensatory picks since the NFL began awarding them. And this decision is only going to further muddy the waters.

Yes, Moore was a valuable member of the Steelers this season, a key player in their run to the Super Bowl. But at the end of the day, how does a running back who started all of four games and signed a deal that averages $1.65 million per year soften the blow of losing a Pro Bowl guard?

Apparently, to the league, guards aren't worth all that much, even good ones.

Then again, Indianapolis lost guard Jake Scott to Tennessee. The Colts didn't sign anybody and received a fourth-round compensatory pick for their troubles.

Unlike Faneca, however, Scott didn't make the Pro Bowl, while his contract average of $4.8 million per year is still more than a $1 million less than Faneca's average salary minus Moore's.

Again, go figure.

For that matter, let's look at what San Francisco received for losing, among others, guard Justin Smiley.

The 49ers had a net loss of two players, as defensive end Marques Douglas, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, running back Maurice Hicks and Smiley signed elsewhere. The 49ers signed wide receiver Bryant Johnson and defensive end Justin Smith.

Cincinnati received a third-round pick as one of its four compensatory picks, presumably for losing Smith, who signed a deal that average $7 million per year.

Yet somehow the 49ers still received fifth and seventh-round picks.

I don't know about you, but it makes my head spin trying to figure out how the league comes up with this.

But it should serve as a lesson to fans who like to speculate about what great compensatory picks their team is going to receive for the loss of a certain free agent.

Don't count your chickens before they hatch, especially when the NFL and its Pythagorean-like theory for awarding compensatory picks are involved.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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