Phil Perry

How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

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How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason. 


Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

The Patriots have been busy in the last 48 hours. They made a trade to bring in a second McCourty. They signed a defensive end, a running back and an offensive lineman. And now they're extending one of their own. 

According to NFL Media, the Patriots are signing safety Patrick Chung to a short-term contract extension. Chung was headed into the final year of his contract and was set to earn $2 million in base salary. It's the third extension Chung has signed with New England in a little more than three years. 

Chung, who turns 31 in August, is arguably Bill Belichick's most versatile defender. He is able to play a traditional strong safety role, covering tight ends and backs and playing in run support. He's also been used at the "star" spot to take on opposing slot receivers, and he'll occasionally rush the passer. He's also still a key contributor in the kicking game. 

"The guy is a really good football player," Belichick said of Chung earlier in January. "He’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best players on our team. He does a lot of things very well and has done them that way for a long time. We’re lucky we have him. He’s an outstanding player in all the things that he does. We put a lot on him, and he always comes through."

Chung's second go-round with the Patriots has breathed new life into his career. 

Drafted in the second round in 2009 - with a pick the Patriots picked up by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs - Chung was used in more of a traditional deep safety role. That gig didn't exactly maximize his skill set, and in 2013 he signed with the Eagles to play under his college coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly. 

The Eagles released Chung after one season, and the Patriots re-signed him with a different role in mind. A strong tackler who wasn't afraid to mix it up at the linebacker level, Chung started to be deployed more often in the box. He readily admitted, he welcomed the change to be a little closer to the action. 

In 2015, Chung signed an extension to tack on three years to what was initially a one-year contract. In 2016, he signed another one-year extension. 

"We took the guy in the second round," Belichick said last season. "But it just - for a combination of reasons, I'd say a big part of it [being] mistakes that I personally made - it didn’t work out the way that we hoped it would. But we got it right the second time. I think we've been able to utilize him. I wish we had been able to do that when we initially got him, but it didn’t work out that way. Like I said, I think we finally got it right."


Patriots land dependable veteran corner in Jason McCourty

Patriots land dependable veteran corner in Jason McCourty

The Patriots tried to trade for Jason McCourty multiple times when he was a member of the Titans. For one reason or another, it didn't work out. 

Finally, after McCourty spent a season in Cleveland, Bill Belichick was able to land McCourty twin No. 2.

MORE - D. McCourty on addition of brother Jason 'It's a perfect fit'

It makes sense that Devin McCourty's brother would be deemed a fit in New England. Jason McCourty is considered a smart player who has the ability to play both man and zone. He has good speed and he's a willing tackler. And he's dependable. Among all corners last season who played at least 700 snaps, only Aqib Talib (1 missed tackle in 753 snaps) and Chris Harris (1 in 869 snaps) missed fewer tackles than McCourty (2 in 899 snaps).

Devin joined Boston Sports Tonight on Thursday to give a quick scouting report on his brother.

"Well I'm better," he said, "so I don't want to get people's hopes up too much. Whatever you think of me, think a little less of him."

As Jason toiled away for teams in Tennessee and Cleveland without a playoff appearance, his twin had no problem giving him a hard time while the Patriots played deep into January year after year. Devin did, however, play it straight for a moment on Thursday when discussing the benefits of playing alongside his wombmate and Rutgers teammate. 

"I think we're both smart football players, understand scheme and whatever it is as a defense you're trying to get done," he said. "I would say I'm a little bit more physical than him, and some people might say he's faster than me. It will be exciting to see how we feed off each other. 

"It's been a long time since we've been on the field together and been able to communicate and kind of know what each other is thinking and doing."

The twins will turn 31 this summer, but Jason McCourty has one more year of NFL service time under his belt after entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2009. In 2017, Jason had one of his best seasons, picking off three passes and breaking up eight others. He came in as the No. 17 corner in the league by season's end, according to Pro Football Focus. 

In New England, the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder will likely figure in as an outside corner opposite Stephon Gilmore as he played fewer than 30 snaps in the slot each of the last three years. Will he start? Will he come in as a third corner (which in 2018 is often essentially a starting role) and play on the outside with Eric Rowe bumping inside? 

All of that remains to be seen, but it's safe to say McCourty's presence provides the Patriots with a measure of depth they were lacking earlier in the week. With Malcolm Butler signing in Tennessee, the Patriots boast a group of corners that includes McCourty, Gilmore, Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Adams and Jomal Wiltz.

Because McCourty was traded, the Patriots pick up the final year of the two-year contract he signed with the Browns last offseason. He has a base salary of $2.375 million. New England sent a sixth-round pick (No. 205 overall) to Cleveland in exchange for McCourty and a seventh-round selection (No. 219).

Jason McCourty was initially set to be released, but the Patriots sought to secure the corner's services without losing him to a higher bidder, which could have happened had he hit the open market. 

The McCourty brothers have long been interested in playing together, and it might've happened had the Patriots and Titans ever agreed to terms when Jason was in Nashville. McCourty was released by the Titans last offseason, but his release came late in free-agency, and by the time he became available, the Patriots had added Gilmore and it had already become clear that Butler would be sticking for 2017. 

It wasn't meant to be then. One year later, the twins' mom Phyllis Harrell is finally getting her wish to see her sons team up in the NFL. 

"She was just screaming when I FaceTimed her," Devin said. "She was so excited. She wanted this longer than anybody else."