UPDATE: The Patriots extended LeGarrette Blount the rarely-used May 9 tender, which is worth 110 percent of what he made in 2016 ($1.1 million). The tender allows the Blount to count toward New England's 2018 compensatory-pick formula should he sign with another club. If he does not sign with another club before July 22, the Patriots will have exclusive negotiating rights with Blount from July 22 through the Tuesday after Week 10 of the regular season. Per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Blount has no plans to sign the tender at the moment.
It's time to talk compensatory picks. Again, I know.
These things are the source of a whole lot of confusion for many because the way in which the league determines who gets compensatory picks, how many, and in what rounds is based upon a secret formula.
That's right. Like the special sauce on your Big Mac.
What we do know about the formula, though, is that it's based on free agents lost and free agents signed by a given team in a given year. The level of those free agents -- which factors in salary, playing time and postseason honors -- is also taken into account.
Picks are then awarded to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired.
It's also important to point out that the formula for compensatory picks is based on what happened the previous year. Therefore 2018 picks will be determined by what happened in free agency in 2017 and how free agents performed with their new clubs during the 2017 season.
Compensatory picks come at the end of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, and teams can be awarded up to four. It wasn't until this year that compensatory picks could be traded.
So why is now the time to talk about compensatory picks? Again?
Because the book has been closed on which free agents will count toward next year's compensatory pick formula. Any player signed before Wednesday will count. Any player signed on Wednesday and thereafter will not. (Editor's note: See above for the lone exception.)
For the Patriots, this is significant. The free agents they lost before May 9 -- Martellus Bennett, Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and Barkevious Mingo -- are all eligible to factor into next year's comp-pick formula. Had any of them been signed following the May 9 deadline and not been extended the May 9 tender, they would not have counted toward the compensatory pick formula.
Part of the reason teams may have been unwilling to sign either Blount or Michael Floyd (who signed with the Vikings on Wednesday) in recent weeks was that if showed some patience, those acquisitions would not harm their comp-pick formula . . . and would not help New England's.
The Patriots, meanwhile, may be exercising similar patience with free agents they've showed interest in.
They hosted free agent offensive lineman Brandon Fusco and free agent linebacker Dan Skuta for visits two weeks ago but didn't pounce on either. Both were later picked up by the 49ers and Bears, respectively, and could count against the comp-pick formula for those teams.
Should the Patriots sign free-agent linebacker Andrew Gachkar or running back Christine Michael -- both of whom visited the Patriots on Tuesday, per ESPN -- they won't count against the comp-pick formula since the May 9 deadline has come and gone.
OvertheCap.com does a phenomenal job of spelling out which free agents lost and gained will count toward a particular club's compensatory pick formula, and they've pegged Sheard and Bennett as the two players who will return picks (a fourth and a fifth, respectively) to New England in 2018. Ryan and Stephon Gilmore are moves that could cancel out, per OTC, as are Mingo and Lawrence Guy, and Long and Rex Burkhead.
But before you mark it in ink that the Patriots can add fourth and fifth-rounders to next year's haul of draft picks, remember what we talked about. Playing time and postseason honors come into play with these things. So if for some reason Sheard and Bennett play less than expected, or if Burkhead and Guy play like All-Pros, then the comp-pick formula -- secret as it is -- will be adjusted to reflect that.