The NFL Draft is the best, and maybe only, avenue the Buffalo Bills have to get better this offseason.
They got some good news in that regard Friday, when the NFL announced its compensatory selections for April's draft. The Bills added two picks, one in the fourth round, 139th overall, and another in the sixth (218th). That gives the Bills eight overall picks when added to their own six – one of each coming in the first six rounds. Buffalo traded its 2016 seventh-round pick to Minnesota last season as part of the deal to acquire quarterback Matt Cassel.
A total of 33 compensatory picks were handed out to 13 teams. Teams are eligible for compensatory selections if they lose more or better free agents than what they acquire in the previous year. A formula developed by the NFL Management Council that takes into account salary, playing time and postseason honors factors into how the picks are awarded.
In 2015, Buffalo lost guard Erik Pears, safety Da'Norris Searcy, running back C.J. Spiller and tight end Lee Smith in free agency, while adding only quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Both Searcy and Spiller signed deals that average at least $4 million per season, while Pears took every offensive snap for the 49ers.
So far this offseason, the Bills have lost linebacker Nigel Bradham and cornerback Ron Brooks to Philadelphia in unrestricted free agency, without adding any players, potentially putting them in line for compensatory selections in 2017.
Defensive end Mario Williams and cornerback Leodis McKelvin would not count as losses, because they were released by the Bills with time remaining on their contracts.
The Bills can not trade their compensatory picks – a rule change approved in December will allow teams to do that beginning in 2017 – but it does give them more flexibility with their own selections.
The Bills have been awarded 28 compensatory selections since the system was put into place in 1994, the 10th most in the NFL. It's the first time they've received any picks since a seventh-rounder in 2012, however, and the first time they've received two picks since 2008.
Dallas, San Francisco and New England were each awarded four picks in 2016, tied for the most of any team. Detroit got the highest pick, No. 95 in the third round.