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Early look at potential compensatory picks for Rams in 2023

It’d be hard to watch Von Miller and others leave in free agency, but more draft picks make it an easier pill to swallow

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NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Compensatory draft selections by design are supposed to lessen the blow for teams that are losing talent in unrestricted free agency but may not have the resources to sign highly valued free agents themselves. The Los Angeles Rams have leveraged compensatory draft selections as an integral part of their team build, though this is a topic that can be complex and often misunderstood.

The earliest example of the Rams and the Les Snead-Sean McVay brain trust gaming the system was back in 2017 when the team traded a 2nd round draft pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins played only a single season in LA; however, he performed well and was a big factor in turning around a historically bad offense. The Kansas City Chiefs signed Watkins to a significant contract, netting Los Angeles a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2019.

But the compensatory formula also takes into account free agents signed by that team, which offsets the return of players lost. The Rams have found work arounds in that area as well, signing players in free agency that have been released as opposed to their contracts expiring - Ndamukong Suh and Leonard Floyd are examples here.

The third key aspect of, and the newest portion of the formula for, compensatory draft selections are for minority members of the front office and coaching staff that leave for general manager or head coaching positions. The Rams earned two 3rd round compensatory picks for the Detroit Lions hiring Brad Holmes as GM after the 2020 season.

How many compensatory picks do the Rams have in 2022?

(projected)

  • 3rd round - losing Brad Holmes to Lions
  • 4th round - John Johnson III signing with Cleveland Browns
  • 6th round - Samson Ebukam signing with San Francisco 49ers
  • 6th round - Gerald Everett signing with Seattle Seahawks
  • 6th round - Troy Hill signing with Browns

Teams are limited to only five compensatory selections in a single year, provided that at least one of those selections are attributable to a general manager or head coach hiring.

How are compensatory awards calculated?

In very simple terms, the NFL awards 32 compensatory selections on an annual basis as a result of free agent signings. Unrestricted free agents that a team loses are netted against the free agents that are gained. A free agent gained will first cancel out a free agent lost in the same round, but it could cancel out a higher valued selection if there are no other losses to net against.

The top 5% of free agent contracts generally earn 3rd round selections, which are the highest award possible under the formula.

In 2022, there are 8 3rd rounders expected to be awarded to teams; however, only 1 of these are attributable to a free agent signing (Kenny Golladay - Lions). The remaining 7 of these draft selections are for head coach or general manager hirings.

7 4th round picks are projected to be awarded in 2022, along with 3 5th rounders, 10 6th rounders, and 11 7th rounders (32 from free agents, 39 total).

How many compensatory picks could Rams earn in 2023?

Von Miller, OLB

One lessor known rule as it relates to compensatory selections is that players with more than 10 accrued seasons can only provide a maximum of a 5th round selection no matter how large the contract signed. Von Miller has 11 accrued seasons in the NFL, so should he leave in free agency the Rams may see some lost value in the return draft capital. Miller is expected to be one of the premier edge rushers available in this free agency class, and his market already appears hot.

Estimate: 5th round compensatory selection

Darious Williams, CB

Pro Football Focus (PFF) projected contract values for the top NFL free agents, and they have Darious Williams at an expected value of $11M per year. This would likely net either a lower-tier 4th round selection or one of the highest 5th round picks, as both John Johnson ($11.3M) and Nelson Agholor ($11M) netted 4th rounders for their original teams last offseason.

Estimate: 4th or 5th round compensatory selection

Joseph Noteboom, OL

Should Andrew Whitworth decide to return to the Rams in 2022, the team may let Joseph Noteboom walk in free agency. However, should the Rams lose both Noteboom and Whitworth, they may have to look for an external replacement - and this could reduce the return compensatory capital from Noteboom.

PFF has projected Noteboom’s contract at $4M per year, given that he is a relatively unproven NFL player and he did have a significant injury in 2019. A more reasonable estimate for the young offensive lineman could be north of $10M if there are multiple teams interested in his services.

Estimate: 5th round compensatory selection, but Rams have to sign reinforcements

Austin Corbett, OL

The Rams offensive line fell apart after their last Super Bowl appearance, and that should serve as a cautionary tale for this offseason. LA should look to retain as much of their OL talent as possible, but Austin Corbett could get expensive.

PFF projected Corbett’s market value north of $9.25M per year, which would put the Rams in 5th round compensatory territory based on the 2022 selection numbers.

Estimate: 5th round compensatory selection

Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT

LA will find it hard to retain Sebastian Joseph-Day when they already have some other solid role players along the defensive line, including A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, Michael Hoecht, and Eric Banks. Teams that have adopted the Vic Fangio-Brandon Staley style of defense may also crave Joseph-Day’s familiarity with the system which could drive up his market value.

The defensive tackle is projected to make an average of $8M per year per PFF, which could net the Rams a 5th round compensatory selection.

Estimate: 5th round compensatory selection

Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator

It was a mild surprise that defensive coordinator Raheem Morris didn’t get more significant opportunities as teams hired head coaches - he interviewed only with the Minnesota Vikings. It’s not likely he will get passed over two years in a row, and that could be to the Rams’ benefit.

If Morris is hired as a head coach in 2023, LA would receive 3rd round selections for the 2023 and 2024 drafts.

Estimate: 3rd round compensatory selection

Final Thoughts

It’s worth re-iterating any players the Rams sign that have not been released by their former team will cost them in the compensatory selection formula. For example, if the Rams sign a lineman worth $9M per year, they would lose the return selection for Noteboom or Corbett should either one of them earn a contract with a similar value.

While it seems the Rams could be receiving 3rd, 4th, and 3 5th rounders in 2023, in reality they will probably sign other players that will offset the calculation. In this case we could see LA instead receive a 7th round selection for someone like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo or Sony Michel.

Free agency officially begins Wednesday, March 16th. Will the Rams be able to retain key players in hopes of “running it back” in 2022, or could other teams go on a spending spree to sign some world champions?