In evaluating the likelihood of each team to receive 2022 compensatory picks for lost free agents in 2021, OvertheCap recently projected the odds of the Los Angeles Rams to benefit from this rule as “Very High.” The Rams will receive three compensatory picks this year, including two thirds and a fourth (one each for Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton, and executive Brad Holmes) and they could receive at least that many in 2022. The maximum allowed by any team in a given year is four.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are the inverse of all of their division rivals: low in quantity (11 pending UFAs) but high in quality (John Johnson, Leonard Floyd, Troy Hill, Austin Blythe, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett, Samson Ebukam). Combine this with their payroll very locked in on their top players, and their draft capital depleted from acquiring such players, and the Rams will likely appreciate some high comp picks to help fill that void. Potential: Very High
For basics on how the compensatory picks are calculated, you can read the full breakdown at OtC. The most important parts (my emphasis added):
[A] Compensatory Free Agent (“CFA”) shall be defined as an Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) who: (i) signed with a new Club during the prior free agency signing period […] prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Monday following the NFL Draft for that League Year1 […]; and (ii) ranked within the top 35% of all League players […]. Clubs that lose to other Clubs a greater number of CFAs than they sign or acquire from other Clubs shall be eligible to receive a Compensatory Draft Selection in the College Draft to be held in the following League Year subject to the provisions set forth below.
In plain English, if a team loses more players that qualify as CFAs than it signs during free agency, that team is eligible to be awarded compensatory picks in the following NFL draft.
It is important to note that only certain players qualify for the compensatory formula. Those are only players whose contracts expire. Players who are cut are the most common example of free agents ineligible to become CFAs, but other methods of disqualification, such as a Restricted Free Agent not given a tender, also exist. In its most general sense, players only become Compensatory Free Agents if they are free to leave their old team against that team’s will.
Now could any of the Rams’ prospective 2021 free agents help LA receive a third round compensatory pick in 2022? I think that will be difficult.
Last year, Fowler signed for $15 million AAV and he barely qualified as a third round compensatory pick. If John Johnson sets a new AAV record for safeties (the current high is $14.75 million by Budda Baker) then maybe the Rams would get a third round compensatory pick. What seems a little more likely is that Johnson, should he leave in free agency and the Rams don’t sign a comparable free agent (which looks highly improbable), is a fourth round compensatory selection.
In Floyd’s case, edge rushers do make considerably more than safeties, but he’s not a premier player at his position. In the case of former Rams linebacker Robert Quinn, he received a five-year, $70 million contract from the Bears last year that averages $14 million per season. I would be surprised if Floyd signed for that much and given the odd landscape of the 2021 salary cap situation, he might even seek a one-year deal.
The Rams received a 2021 fourth round compensatory pick for the loss of Littleton, who signed for $11.75 AAV with the Raiders. This would seem to fall in line with my projection for Floyd and therefore I believe two fourth round compensatory picks might be what LA receives for their top two free agents.
They will also be receiving a second third round comp pick for Holmes next year, meaning that they should have no less than three 2022 comp picks, so long as Johnson and Floyd sign with other teams on expected deals and the Rams don’t make corresponding moves.
With regards to their other free agents, like Troy Hill, Austin Blythe, and Josh Reynolds, it is probable that at least one of them signs for more than $3 million AAV, which would have netted a seventh round compensatory pick last year. Anything between $6-$8 million might end up in the 5th-6th round range. The most likely player to do that, in my opinion, is Blythe. His versatility and ability to play center should be enough to convince a team to pay him like an average starter, which is around $8 million.
However, if the Rams sign an unrestricted free agent player who wasn’t released for that amount, then they’d cancel each other out. LA might have enough cap room to do one of those deals, so it’s a matter of wait-and-see. The player very well could be more valuable than a sixth round comp pick, so don’t get too upset if it happens.
Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if when it’s all said and done, the Rams have one third, two fourths, and one sixth round compensatory picks in 2022. All the better, since they won’t have their first or fourth round picks next year.