Bengals linebacker Thomas Howard
The NFL has a super-secret formula they use when deciding what compensatory picks each team will receive in the draft. The formula is a combination of salary, playing time, and postseason awards of the players the team loses compared to those of the free agents the team signs. The only real way to get a good idea of what the Raiders can expect as compensation, we must go back and look at previous draft picks that were handed out. And that is what I have attempted to do. Enjoy.
For starters we must look at what the Raiders lost in free agency compared to who they signed. The team lost a total of five players in free agency: Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, Thomas Howard, and Bruce Gradkowski. In return the team signed free agents Kevin Boss and Stephon Heyer.
I noticed in my research that simple math nearly always holds true. Unless the team loses the same amount of players as they receive and the outgoing players worth outweighs the incoming players as happened with the Raiders last season. In that case, the league awarded the team with a round seven pick.
But otherwise, it's pretty cut and dry: The Raiders lost five players and picked up two which means they are almost certain to receive three compensatory picks.
There is one exception to this simple math rule as far as I have seen it. The league hands out a total of 32 compensatory picks. If, after doling out the picks for lost free agents, there are still not 32 picks handed out, the remaining picks will be given out at the end of round seven beginning with the top of the draft order.
For instance say, like last year, there are 18 compensatory picks given out for free agent losses. That means the remaining 14 picks will be given to the 14 teams at the top of the draft order. Therefore Indianapolis will very likely get an additional round seven pick, followed by St Louis, and so on. The year prior, there were 30 teams given compensatory picks for losses and just two at the end for the top of the draft order. So with the Raiders 17th in the draft order, there is little chance they will receive one of those extra round seven picks.
So out of the gates, the Raiders should receive three picks. Now to decide what rounds they will come from.
As I mentioned before, the league does have several criteria they weigh in their formula. The most heavily weighed is playing time and salary. Postseason awards such as making a Pro Bowl or All Pro are also considered but to a lesser degree. Therefore, having none of the players the Raiders let go make the Pro Bowl shouldn't matter much with regard to the compensation the Raiders receive.
Raiders 2011 free agents
Lost: Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Zach Miller, Thomas Howard, and Bruce Gradkowski
Signed: Stephon Heyer and Kevin Boss
Here are the pertinent numbers of these players
Asomugha season: 16 games, 15 starts, 5 yr, $60 mil contract
Gallery season: 12 starts, 3 yr, $15 mil contract
Miller season: 15 starts, 25 catches, 5 yr, $34 mil contract
Howard season: 16 games, 15 starts, 2 yr, $6.5 mil contract
Gradkowski season: 2 games, 0 starts, 2 yr contract
Boss season: 13 games, 11 starts, 28 catches, 4 yr, $16 mil contract
Heyer season: 9 games, 2 starts, 1 yr, $1.7 mil contract
Off the top, the Gallery and Boss numbers are very similar and should cancel each other out. Likewise Heyer and Gradkowski cancel each other out as well. What we are left with is Asomugha, Miller, and Howard for whom the Raiders will be compensated.
To figure out what kind of pick the Raiders will get for each of these players one must compare them to the compensation received in the past couple years.
Nnamdi Asomugha signed a 5 yr $60 million contract and started all but one game last season. These are the numbers and contracts he compares most closely with:
2009 TJ Houshmandzadeh: 16 starts, 79 catches, 5 yr $40 mil contract
2010 Julius Peppers: 16 starts, All Pro, 6yr, $84 mil contract
2009 Albert Haynesworth: 12 games, 12 starts, 7 yr, $100 mil contract
All three of these players garnered the team who lost them a round three compensatory pick. Only Peppers went to the Pro Bowl. I have no doubt the Raiders will receive a round three compensatory pick for the loss of Asomugha.
Zach Miller is next with his 15 starts after signing a 5-year, $34 million contract. These are the numbers and contracts that he compares most closely with.
2010 Aaron Kampman: 8 games, 8 starts, 4 yr, $24 mil contract
2010 Kyle Vanden Bosch: 11 games, 11 starts, 4yr, $26 mil contract
2009 Michael Boley: 11 games, 11 starts, 5 yr, $25 mil contract
Kampman and Vanden Bosch's former teams received round four compensatory picks in return for their leaving as free agents. Boley's loss actually earned his former team a third round pick. But I don't expect that high of a pick for Miller. Round four seems very likely.
Then we are left with Thomas Howard. He surprisingly appeared in all 16 games for the Bengals and started 15 of them after signing a 2 year, $6.5 million contract. Here are the player with whom his numbers and contract compares most closely.
2010 Justin Bannan: 16 starts, 3 yr, $8.5 mil contract
2010 Fred Robbins: 16 starts, 3 yr, $11,25 mil contract
2009 Bryant McFadden: 16 starts, 2 yr, $10 mil contract
2009 Matt Birk: 16 starts, 3 yr, $12 mil contract
2009 Keith Brooking: 16 games, 14 starts, 5 yr, $13 mil contract
Every one of these players garnered their team a round five pick in the following draft. Seems hard to believe the Raiders might receive a fifth round pick for a player they considered expendable, but the evidence suggests they will.
And there you have it. The Raiders should receive compensatory picks in each of rounds three, four, and five. There is a lot Reggie McKenzie can do with three extra mid-round picks.
I will add that there is an outside chance that the Thomas Howard pick could drop to round six based on his contract being for just 2 years. The most closely comparable contracts in per-year money are all three or more years. That is part of the grey area in the "secret formula" the league uses to figure these things out.