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NFL compensatory picks announced: What they mean and how they’re awarded

NFL compensatory picks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL compensatory picks have become a huge part of team-building philosophies around the league since their inception back in 1994.

Teams that don’t have the cap room to sign outside free agents and lose their own free agents were given an ability to replace them with draft picks. It’s somewhat of a competitive balance pick in the truest sense of the term. Remember, that 1994 timeline is also when the modern salary cap as we know it starts.

Below, we’ll look at the NFL compensatory pick formula with a focus on those who were awarded selections in 2022.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated 2022 NFL mock draft

What are NFL Compensatory picks?

nfl compensatory picks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A total of 32 picks are handed out around the league on an annual basis leading up to the NFL Draft. The formula is pretty simple. The formula is based on the player’s average annual salary, playing time and postseason awards. Salaries are the primary factor.

If a team loses more free agents in an offseason than it signs, it is awarded compensatory pick(s) for the following year’s NFL Draft. Under this formula, teams that lost more free agents than they signed during the 2021 offseason were awarded 2022 NFL compensatory picks.

If a player signs with another team for a high-end value (say $20 million annually) and the team that lost said player did not add the same amount of equal-level free agents, it would then likely receive the highest possible compensatory selection (third round). Lower-value free-agent departures would then likely net a lower-round pick in the sixth or seventh.

Related: Top 200 NFL free agents of 2022

Minority hiring process and NFL compensatory picks

NFL: Scouting Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2020, the league came out with a formula that rewarded teams for promoting and retaining minority assistant coaches and front office personnel.

The formula is a bit more convoluted in that it awards the teams who saw a minority candidate hired by another organization to become a head coach or general manager. It does not award the team that hires said individual.

For example, the 49ers received two third-round selections (one in 2022 and one in 2023) when the Miami Dolphins hired former San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel to be their next head coach earlier in the offseason.

The 49ers also received two third-round selections when the Washington Commanders hired former VP of Player Personnel Martin Mayhew to be their general manager last offseason.

Related: Updated NFL trade rumors

Can NFL compensatory picks be traded?

From 1994-2016, the NFL did not allow teams to trade comp picks. That changed during the 2017 offseason.

A most-recent example of this would be when the San Francisco 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to land Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. San Francisco had already been rewarded a comp pick for the New York Jets hiring former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to be their next head coach.

2022 NFL compensatory picks announced

  • 3 33-97 Detroit
  • 3 34-98 New Orleans
  • 3 35-99* Cleveland
  • 3 36-100* Baltimore
  • 3 37-101* New Orleans
  • 3 38-102* San Francisco
  • 3 39-103* Kansas City
  • 3 40-104* Los Angeles Rams
  • 3 41-105* San Francisco
  • 4 33-138 Pittsburgh
  • 4 34-139 Baltimore
  • 4 35-140 Green Bay
  • 4 36-141 Baltimore
  • 4 37-142 Los Angeles Rams
  • 4 38-143 Tennessee
  • 5 33-176 Dallas
  • 5 34-177 Detroit
  • 5 35-178 Dallas
  • 5 36-179 Indianapolis
  • 6 33-211 Los Angeles Rams
  • 6 34-212 Los Angeles Rams
  • 6 35-213 Atlanta
  • 6 36-214 Los Angeles Chargers
  • 6 37-215 Arizona
  • 6 38-216 Indianapolis
  • 6 39-217 Detroit
  • 6 40-218 Los Angeles Rams
  • 6 41-219 Tennessee
  • 6 42-220 San Francisco
  • 6 43-221 San Francisco
  • 7 33-254 Los Angeles Chargers
  • 7 34-255 Los Angeles Chargers
  • 7 35-256 Arizona
  • 7 36-257 Arizona
  • 7 37-258 Green Bay
  • 7 38-259 Kansas City
  • 7 39-260 Los Angeles Chargers
  • 7 40-261 Tampa Bay
  • 7 41-262 San Francisco