Kim of Brandon, Fla., noted Friday's late announcement of compensatory draft picks and wrote: "Please explain the concept behind compensatory picks. I fail to see the reasoning behind rewarding a team for losing a player to free agency, when if it wasn't cheap in the first place, it could have signed the player rather than letting him escape. Seems to me teams are being rewarded for being too tight to open the checkbook."
Kevin Seifert: To review, the Green Bay Packers received an additional fourth-round draft pick, and the Minnesota Vikings collected extra picks in the sixth and seventh rounds. According to its official release, the NFL awards compensatory picks to any team that loses "more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year." The number of picks "equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four," and is determined by an unpublicized formula.
I agree with parts of your point, Kim. The compensatory program is a tool for at least reducing the urgency teams might otherwise feel to sign aging veterans to contracts they aren't comfortable with. The compensation might not be commensurate with the loss, but it certainly lessens the blow.
With that said, I'm not sure if the compensatory program rewards teams for being "cheap" as much as it incentivizes them to kick-start the process of replacing older players with younger ones that potentially create new excitement in the NFL. In both NFC North cases, I think the latter explanation fits.
Was the Packers' decision to part ways with defensive end/linebacker Aaron Kampman based on finances? No. It was just smart business. Kampman was returning from a serious knee injury, was 30 at the time and wasn't a good fit for their 3-4 defense.
The Vikings, meanwhile, made the right call not to pay backup tailback Chester Taylor the kind of contract he was seeking and ultimately got from the Chicago Bears. The Vikings went on to draft tailback Toby Gerhart; he wasn't a total replacement for Taylor, but the swap motivated the Vikings to use Adrian Peterson in more passing situations and also get Percy Harvin into the backfield a few times.
In an ideal world, I'm sure the NFL Players Association would like to see the compensatory program end. But on its current list of grievances, I can't imagine it ranking anywhere close to the top.