We’ll take our silver linings where we can find them. It’s early, and a lot can change between now and then, but the analysts at Over The Cap currently project the New Orleans Saints to receive a third round compensatory pick in the 2023 NFL draft after losing standout left tackle Terron Armstead to the Miami Dolphins. That’s projected to slot in at No. 98 overall, which is also where the Saints are scheduled to make their pick in 2022 as a comp selection following pass rusher Trey Hendrickson’s departure in 2021.
Things can change in a hurry here, though. This is just a projection based off the latest roster moves. If the Saints sign another qualifying comp free agent (a player whose last contract expired, and who is signed at greater than minimum salary) the scales will balance out and they won’t get this pick for Armstead. That’s why they aren’t getting the fourth rounder they were previously projected to receive after losing free safety Marcus Williams — the corresponding move to sign his replacement Marcus Maye negated that pick.
The comp draft pick formula is still tough to figure out, but we know that its biggest considerations are the contract value signed with a new team and how often the player got on the field with their old team. There are other subtleties to it, sure, but that’s where most of the focus goes.
And the only teams that are awarded comp draft picks are those who have lost more players than they gained. Players who have been released by their old teams do not factor into the formula. For years, the Saints were aggressive in free agency under Sean Payton and didn’t qualify for comp picks. That tide has turned a bit in recent years, with New Orleans receiving three comp picks in 2021 and two in 2022.
So, yeah, it’s worth monitoring what New Orleans does next in free agency. Obviously that’s the case regardless of comp pick considerations. But if the Saints are smart about this, they can add some good players who won’t jeopardize future comp picks — like slot receiver Jarvis Landry, offensive guard/tackle Billy Turner, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Any player cut by their last team could be signed and keep that Armstead pick in play.
At the same time, the Saints have some free agents who could tip the scales further in their favor. Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, linebacker Kwon Alexander, and defensive back P.J. Williams are all testing the open market, and if signed by a new team to a contract valued at roughly $3.5 million or more, the Saints could better protect that Armstead pick and recoup the fourth rounder for Marcus Williams. Clearly it isn’t a guarantee that those free agents will earn that kind of money, but it’s possible. If nothing else it goes to show that this is a complicated situation.