Perry: Thuney trade in play? An important reminder about compensatory picks


Time to get crazy. Hold onto your butts. Let's talk about the compensatory-pick formula. 

OK. I get it. Might not be the sexiest topic in the world. Still, it's worth considering as the NFL gets closer and closer to its trade deadline on Tuesday. 

It's particularly interesting from a Patriots perspective because they could be "sellers." They won't be looking to deal away good players for pennies on the dollar, particularly since they'll continue to coach and play to win games as they grind through the remainder of the 2020 season. But good players could be headed elsewhere all the same.

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Why does the compensatory-pick formula matter? Because it takes into account players out as well as players in. That means if, for example, the Patriots were to hold onto Joe Thuney at the trade deadline and let him walk in free agency, it doesn't necessarily guarantee them a draft pick in 2022 via the comp-pick formula. 

Thuney will likely carry a third-round comp-pick value in the formula, but because the formula is based upon free agents lost and acquired, if the Patriots signed a similarly-valued player in free agency, that could wipe out the pick headed their way for losing Thuney. 

To play out this hypothetical, let's say Thuney is signed elsewhere in the offseason and given a contract that pays him among the most highly-valued interior offensive linemen in football. (That's the expectation.) Let's say that the Patriots, in turn, sign receiver Allen Robinson in free agency. The comp pick they would've received for Thuney would then go up in smoke because they signed another highly-valued player in free agency.


(A real-life example from last offseason? The Patriots would've been given two 2020 seventh-round picks for losing Chris Hogan and LaAdrian Waddle to free agency in the 2019 offseason. However, because the Patriots signed Brandon Bolden and Terrence Brooks that same offseason -- both also deemed worthy of seventh-round comp picks -- the seventh-round picks for Hogan and Waddle went away.)

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The reason this should be kept in mind this year is that the Patriots are expected to be one of the most cap-flush teams in the NFL in 2021. They have to spend it somewhere. And if this ends up being a reset season, they'll probably want to try to expedite the bounce-back by signing players who can come in and contribute right away. 

If the Patriots are in a place where they're looking to maximize their assets, if they're looking to shed some salary and set themselves up for 2021 and beyond, dealing Thuney -- who is the epitome of a program guy, a leader, one of the team's most durable and best players -- makes some sense. Otherwise, if they hold onto him now and don't re-sign him in the offseason, they risk losing him for nothing.