The New England Patriots projected to receive a 2018 fourth round compensatory pick when tight end Martellus Bennett signed a 3-year, $21 million contract with the Green Bay Packers in free agency. That pick is now in jeopardy since the Packers released Bennett prior to the week 10 deadline.
Some quick facts about compensatory picks: Teams get a total of 32 extra draft picks to compensate for their lost free agents the prior season, with a maximum of four per team. The league cancels out picks for teams that signed free agents, so if a team both loses and adds a player of relative value (say, both players get 3-year, $21 million deals), then that team will receive no additional picks.
But the rule is that players must remain on the roster through week 10 of the upcoming season in order for them to count in the compensatory math. So this means that the Packers cut Bennett right before week 10 on purpose.
See, Bennett was one of the Packers only notable free agent additions, but they lost six players worthy of compensatory picks. The addition of Bennett canceled out their loss of defensive back Micah Hyde, who was worth a fifth round compensatory pick. By releasing Bennett, the Packers are now back in line to receive that fifth round compensatory pick, improving their draft capital. It’s a smart move, especially if they didn’t consider Bennett a part of their future plans.
But the Patriots get the other side of the balance. New England was slated to receive a pair of fourth round picks thanks to the departure of Jabaal Sheard and Bennett.
Part of the reason why the Patriots didn’t want to include Brian Hoyer in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade is that Hoyer would have canceled out one of their fourth round picks. Hoyer is worth a fifth round compensatory pick and that value would have transferred from the 49ers balance to the Patriots if Hoyer were included in the trade. But since Hoyer was released and made his way through waivers, he doesn’t count against the Patriots compensatory math as a mid-season signing.
This same logic applies to Bennett. If a team claims Bennett off waivers, then that team is responsible for the fourth round compensatory pick, limiting the number of teams that might be willing to claim him. In other words, only teams that don’t have a fourth or fifth round pick at stake should be willing to add Bennett. There are a few, like Washington or Jacksonville, but the pool of possible teams are smaller.
And so that’s why I think the Patriots should put in a claim on Bennett, if they think he has any value left as a player. If a team before the Patriots in the waiver claim gets Bennett, so be it, and New England keeps their compensatory draft pick. If Bennett falls to the Patriots, then, hey, the Patriots just boosted their offense with a talented tight end.
But if Bennett goes past the Patriots and New England doesn’t put in a claim, then who gets the tight end? The Patriots are the 30th team in the waiver wire line, with only the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles behind them. Both the Saints and the Eagles are not projected to get any compensatory picks, so they could absolutely add Bennett without draft repercussion.
So if the Patriots are confident that either the Saints or Eagles will claim Bennett, then the question is whether a compensatory fourth round pick is worth more than half a season (with the possibility of two more) of Bennett. I say it is, especially with how much help the Patriots need in the red zone.
We’ll find this all out by 4:00 PM ET, when the wire transactions are reported.
But just think: if the Patriots hadn’t yanked Hoyer from the Garoppolo trade and Bennett were subsequently released by the Packers and unclaimed off waivers, then New England would have seen both of their 2018 fourth round compensatory picks vanish in the span of a week. That’s why keeping Hoyer out of the Garoppolo trade was such an important and smart decision.