On Monday, when the NFL has its annual meeting to discuss important topics of the upcoming season, the league will award compensatory draft picks for this upcoming draft. Compensatory picks are picks we receive from losing players to free agency the season before. The round the pick is given is based upon the player's new contract salary and how much they play and contribute to their new team. The highest compensatory a team can receive is a 3rd round pick (like what we got from losing Asante Samuel).
According to AdamJT13, who has the system pretty much nailed, this is the definition of a compensatory pick:
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.
Also according to AdamJT, here is what we can expect for compensatory picks:
1st Compensatory Pick of the 7th Round: New England (Jabar Gaffney, $2.5 million, 16/7) — possibly a sixth-round pick
11th: New England (Lonie Paxton, $1.03 million, 16/0)
12th: New England (Heath Evans, $1.05 million, 6/5)
13th: New England (LaMont Jordan, $1.01 million, 9/0)
With additional late picks, we gain flexibility to move up in the later rounds with our regular picks since compensatory picks cannot be traded, or add more camp players and potentially grab ourselves another player in the contribution mold of Julian Edelman or Tom Brady. While picking up 4 potential 7th rounders may not seem so enticing, keep in mind that players like Brady and Nick Kaczur were compensatory picks and other players like Edelman, Matt Cassel and David Givens were grabbed late in the draft.
My opinion is that having more picks gives us a greater chance to pick up some quality players and also gives us freedom to move up with our regular picks and grab players we want in the 2nd, 3rd or the rounds. I think we'll hold onto the late rounders, though, because that's where most of our pet projects get picked up.