The NFL looks at what you lost and what you gained in free agency - for unrestricted free agents. The formula is fairly complicated, but the main factor is the amount of money in the free agent contracts. Right now the Broncos have lost three players to free agency of the possible host that we could lose this off-season: Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. We have only signed one player, Donald Stephenson.
As the NFL explains, compensatory picks are awarded to teams that lose more or better compensatory free agents than they acquire. The number of picks a team can receive equals the net loss of compensatory free agents, up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a secret formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Not every free agent lost or signed is covered by the formula.
Although the formula has never been revealed, by studying the compensatory picks that have been awarded since they began in 1994, I’ve determined that the primary factor in the value of the picks awarded is the average annual value of the contract the player signed with his new team, with an adjustment for playing time and a smaller adjustment for postseason honors.
-AdamJT13 (blogger who has studied the NFL comp pick system)
If we lose no more free agents (highly doubtful) and sign no more free agents (again highly doubtful) then the NFL would most likely award us not one, but two compensatory draft picks at the end of the 3rd round in 2017. For compensatory picks the acquisition of Stephenson cancels the loss of Trevathan. Keep in mind that the comp picks occur in the year after a team has "net losses" to free agency.
Should the Broncos fail to match the Dolphins offer to CJ Anderson, the Broncos will receive no comp pick for him because he is a restricted free agent. Had they tendered him at a higher level, they could have gained a regular draft pick back from the team that signed him away (not a compensatory pick), but the Broncos tendered him basically at an UDCFA level.
It's exceedingly rare for a team to get two third round comp picks; it has only happened three times in NFL history. The team that most recently got two 3rd round comp picks was the Denver Broncos in 2005. They got those two 3rd round comp picks for losing Reuben Droughns and Reggie Heyward to free agency. Droughns ran for 1240 yards for them in 2004 (he played for the Browns in 2005) and Heyward led the team with 10.5 sacks in 2004 only to take a big money deal from the Jaguars where he played all of the rest of his career. 2004 was the best season of Heyward's career. Only two other teams have had multiple 3rd round comp picks in a draft. The Dolphins had three 3rd round comp picks in 1997. They picked Derrick Rodgers, Ronnie Ward and Brent Smith at #92, 93 and 96 respectively. In 1996 the Cowboys had two comp picks in the 3rd round. They picked Stepfret Williams and Mike Ulufale with picks #94 and 95.
In the 2016 draft the Broncos will have three comp picks: a 3rd round pick for losing Julius Thomas, a 4th round pick for losing Orlando Franklin, and a 6th round pick for losing Terrence Knighton. We did not receive a 7th round pick for the loss of Jacob Tamme to free agency because of the free agents that the Broncos signed last off-season. Basically the league said that the Broncos lost significantly more in free agency than they gained for the 2015 season.
It used to be that teams could be awarded a 2nd round comp pick, but the highest round comp pick that is awarded in today's NFL is a 3rd. Some years there are no 3rd round compensatory picks awarded at all. 2012 was one of those years. The team with the most com picks all time is the Ravens. Comp picks have only existed since 1994; technically the Ravens have only existed since 1996. Of the continuously operated franchises in the NFL, the Saints have the fewest comp picks at 10. They have never had a comp pick higher than the 5th round. The Broncos have had 18 comp picks, but they have not used them very well.
Broncos Compensatory Draft Picks
|Year||Player||Round||Pick in Rnd||Overall draft #||Pos||College|
|1998||Eric Brown||2||31||61||DB||Mississippi State|
|1999||Darwin Brown||5||34||167||DB||Texas Tech|
|2004||Bradlee Van Pelt||7||49||250||QB||Colorado State|
|2005||Maurice Clarett||3||37||101||RB||Ohio State|
|2015||Josh Furman||7||35||252||DB||Oklahoma State|
Eric Brown was a serviceable at free starter for us when he was healthy. He missed large parts of his first two season with injuries than starting 16 games for us in 2000 and 2001. Travis McGriff caught five NFL passes - total. Olandis Gary was probably the second most successful of our supplemental draft picks although he had more yards from scrimmage as a rookie than he did in the rest of his NFL career combined. Darwin Brown never made an NFL roster. Chad Plummer played in 4 NFL games total. Sam Brandon played his whole career in Denver and was mostly a special teams player although he did start 10 games at FS in 2003. Brandon Miree never played a down for the Broncos, but he did have one year with the Packers where he started three games. Bradlee Van Pelt threw eight NFL passes. Dominique Foxworth was a decent coverage guy during six year career in the NFL. He only had one year as a full-time starter (09 with BAL as their RCB). Clarett never played a down in the NFL. Dominik Hixon finished his career with 109 catches for 1460 yards and 7 TDs. He also returned a punt and two kickoffs for touchdowns in the regular season. Hixon is probalby the most successful of our comp picks. Beal never appeared in an NFL game. Garcia could wind up being the best comp pick the Broncos have ever made. he started 5 games for us as a rookie and looks to be one of the two starting guard going into camp since Evan Mathis and Luis Vasquez are both currently free agents. Siemian, Nixon and Furman appeared in one game between the three of them last season (Trevor Siemian's kneeldown to end the half).
It should be noted that until the 2017 draft, teams are not allowed to trade comp draft picks. The owners voted to allow that started with the 2017 draft.