If nothing else, you’ve got to admit that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has been consistent and predictable over the course of the 12 years he’s held the job. There is a pattern to what he does and the decisions he makes that repeats itself year after year.
Of all the principles he espouses, of all the practices he follows, however, one stands out as his most firmly-held belief. Thompsons’s first commandment is: Thou shalt take maximum advantage of the NFL compensatory draft pick program.
Compensatory Draft Parameters
Thirty-two compensatory picks are awarded to teams that lost more or better compensatory free agents (CFAs) than they signed in the previous year. If you bring in more CFAs than you lost, you are ineligible for any compensatory picks.
Teams that gain or lose the same number of players, but lose more high-value players can be awarded a pick, but only a seventh-round pick.
The value of any pick is determined by a player’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors with the new team – with the primary factor being salary.
A free agent who signs with a new team at too low a salary (around $1.5 million) is not counted as a CFA
A free agent who doesn’t sign with a new team until the second Tuesday after the NFL draft, is not counted as a CFA.
Compensatory picks are awarded at the ends of round 3 through 7.
For the first time this year compensatory picks can be traded away.
Thompson’s Preference for Non-compensatory Free Agents
We know Thompson is devoted to getting compensatory draft picks, because he’s so devoted to signing non-CFA players. Since 1994, when the program began, the Packers have received 35 compensatory picks, second only to the Baltimore Ravens, who’ve had 44.
Leaving aside Thompson’s half-dozen or so minor free agents signings, here’s my list of Thompson’s more important free agent signings as the Packers’ general manager:
- Ryan Pickett (2006)
- Charles Woodson (2006)
- Brandon Chillar (2008)
- Jeff Saturday (2012)
- Julius Peppers (2014)
- Letroy Guion (2014)
- Jared Cook (2016)
- Martellus Bennett (2017)
- Lance Kendricks (2017)
- Ricky Jean Francois (2017)
- Davon House (2017)
How many of them were unrestricted free agents, and thus subject to the compensatory free agent policy? The first four players and Martellus Bennett. After only four major free agent signings in his first nine years, Thompson has had seven such signings in his last four years.
Why did Thompson go against all his principles in signing Bennett? Because he was in a jam. The Packers fully expected to re-sign Jared Cook in 2017. When those talks weren’t just going well, but suddenly “broke down,” Thompson quickly invited Bennett for a visit and signed him up right away.
Not much was made of it at the time, because a replacement tight end was found so quickly, but Thompson paid the price for signing Cook to just a one-year deal in 2016. Bennett will count against the Packers when the compensatory gains and losses are computed for the 2017 season.
It had been five years since Thompson signed an unrestricted free agent from another team, the longest drought in the NFL. That was defensive end Anthony Hargrove in 2012, who failed to make the final roster.
It’s not true that Ted Thompson doesn’t like to go after free agents. What’s true is he only likes to go after the small group of free agents who’ve been fully released by other teams – and are thus not counted against the team when the compensatory free agent calculations are done.
Tomorrow, I’ll analyze how well Ted Thompson has done, and will do next year, on being awarded compensatory draft picks.