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NFL Draft

Examining Bills GM Brandon Beane’s Compensatory Pick Hack

  • The Draft Network
  • May 5, 2020
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There’s a bit of an obsession that comes with earning compensatory picks. The justification for a team letting a good player sign with another team via free agency is often met with comments about receiving a mid-round comp pick to make up for the departure. 

Teams reduce the pool of players they consider signing to favor those released by other teams to not mess up the compensatory pick formula. We also see teams wait until the big waves of free agency and the draft to sign players because at a certain point they no longer factor into the equation. 

All of that in an effort to have a net negative of free agents lost versus brought in. 

If the objective is to build the best roster possible to compete and win football games, does that even make sense? Passing on established players for hopes of an extra pick between the fourth and fifth rounds to replenish the roster seems foolish.  

While there are economic factors to consider and the salary cap has implications, obsessing over comp picks isn’t the best way to build a team, and Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane knows that. 

Instead of reducing the player pool when adding talent to Buffalo’s roster, Beane has loaded up on free agents on bargain deals to create a competitive roster, often to the point of a surplus of talent at one position. 

Take last season for example. To fix the offensive line, Beane inked six unrestricted free agent offensive linemen, including making Mitch Morse the highest-paid center in NFL history. Veterans Spencer Long, Ty Nsekhe, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain and LaAdrian Waddle were also signed in addition to investing a high 2019 second-round selection on Oklahoma offensive tackle Cody Ford. Those moves were made with Dion Dawkins, Russell Bodine and Wyatt Teller already on the roster. 

Just before the season, Beane sent Bodine to the Patriots for a 2020 sixth-round pick and Teller to the Browns for 2020 fifth- and sixth-round picks. No, the Bills were not awarded any compensatory picks for this year's draft, but Beane created his own by building a competitive roster, having a surplus and trading away talent he was going to cut in exchange for draft capital. 

With nine 2020 picks in his holster before the Stefon Diggs trade, Beane already had an eye towards the 2021 draft when he sent Zay Jones to the Raiders for a 2021 fifth-round selection. Signing veterans John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency created an environment where Buffalo could move on from the struggling Jones and get a mid-round pick in exchange. Given how many free agents Buffalo signed this offseason, it is unlikely to be awarded any comp picks, but Beane creates his own. 

Beane has positioned himself again this year to flip players he has to cut for draft capital. Buffalo’s top seven wide receivers from 2019 all return while Beane acquired Diggs and drafted Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins

At offensive line, Buffalo’s top nine blockers from 2019 all return while Beane signed roster-worthy free agents in Evan Boehm and Daryl Williams. 

While the Bills didn’t bring back Jordan Phillips or Shaq Lawson along the defensive line, seven rostered defensive linemen return in addition to the arrival of Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler and A.J. Epenesa

Given the depth Buffalo has created at receiver, offensive line and defensive line, it is well-positioned again this offseason to flip veterans who weren’t going to make the roster for draft capital. 

In previous years, Beane has flipped other players that were inevitable cuts for compensatory picks. In 2017, Beane sent linebacker Reggie Ragland to Kansas City for a fourth-round pick. In 2018, Beane acquired a fifth-round pick for quarterback A.J. McCarron. Both moves were made just prior to final cuts and neither were going to make Buffalo's roster.

While teams obsess over comp picks, Beane is focused on adding as much roster-worthy talent he can which creates competition and the flexibility to make trades that creates his own comp picks. And suddenly the Bills have one of the league’s deepest and most talented rosters because of it. 

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