Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tackle Branden Albert (76) defends against Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A Quick Guide To Compensatory Picks

One silver lining from losing so many players to free agency while simultaneously not being very active at the top end of the market is Kansas City should be in line for a few compensatory picks.

The process of how compensatory picks are handed out is a bit complicated. In fact, we don’t really know how the NFL determines the value of compensatory picks every year. This makes understanding the compensatory process even more difficult.

Fortunately, we do have history, the internet, and a lot of football nerds who have taken the time to try to unravel the secrets of the compensatory system. Here’s a quick guide to compensation picks and what the very early outlook is for the Chiefs.


Every year the NFL adds a total of 32 picks to teams that have lost more quality free agents than they have signed. Who receives these picks are based on a formula which include the total value of the contract and the player’s performance. All picks are awarded at the end of rounds three through seven for the draft after the free agent was lost. For example, Kansas City would not receive a compensatory pick for Branden Albert until 2015 draft.

Net value picks are handed out to teams in the event there are not 32 eligible compensatory picks to be handed out. So if there are only 28 compensatory picks awarded, four net value picks will be given to the teams with the four worst records from the previous season. Kansas City received such a pick in the 2013 draft. Net value selections are always seventh round picks.

Compensatory picks cannot be traded. A maximum of four compensatory picks are allowed and they are awarded at the NFL meetings at the end of March.


The exact formula the NFL uses for compensatory picks has not been made public. A good breakdown of how the NFL may come to their conclusions by Jimmy Kempski of can be found here.

In short, for the player to be eligible for a compensatory pick he must have been an unrestricted free agent who was not released, signed during the off-season, and signed to a contract notably higher than the league minimum.

Every free agent signed by a team cancels out a free agent lost by the same team. For example, signing Jairus Byrd would have canceled out losing Branden Albert.

The round of the draft pick awarded to a team is based on the amount of the contract signed by the free agent along with the playing time and performance of said free agent.

So do not expect a compensatory pick for Quintin Demps or Kendrick Lewis.


The five players who signed free agent deals on the first day of free agency – Albert, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz, Dexter McCluster, and Tyson Jackson – are the best bets to qualify the Chiefs for a compensatory pick. As of now, Kansas City has signed three free agents but only two – Vance Walker and Joe Mays – have a shot at accumulating enough snaps to cancel out one of Kansas City’s potential compensatory players.


There is a lot of things still left to play out, including whether or not the Chiefs sign another significant free agent or two. However, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Chiefs don’t receive at least one compensatory pick in the 2015 draft.

One would imagine Branden Albert should be worth at least a fourth round, if not third round, pick the Chiefs assuming he stays healthy enough for the Miami Dolphins. This should be the one given out of the group.

From there the Chiefs should receive at least one pick from the group of Jackson, Asamoah, Schwartz, and McCluster. Remember, Kansas City cannot have more than four picks so one of these guys for sure is not going to return the Chiefs a pick. We also don’t know how the Mays and Walker signings are going to be valued. Each of them could cancel out one of the four former Chiefs players.

It is early, but right now it looks like the Chiefs should get at least two compensatory picks with an outside shot of getting three. One of those picks should be either a third or fourth round pick.

It’s early but the Chiefs should have plenty of picks to work with in the 2015 draft.

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