The Buffalo Bills aren't quite there yet when it comes to compensatory draft picks.
After a busy first week in free agency, the Bills have agreed to contracts with six qualifying free agents, while losing three.
To review, a team is eligible to earn up to four compensatory draft picks if it loses more or better qualifying free agents than what it gains in an offseason. Although the NFL has never publicly released the formula for determining how compensatory picks are distributed, it’s believed that a player’s average salary, playing time and any postseason awards received factor into the equation. Of those, average salary is believed to carry the most weight.
According to the website overthecap.com, which tracks every team's additions and subtractions in unrestricted free agency on a cancellation chart, the Bills' additions of Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler, A.J. Klein, Tyler Matakevich, Mario Addison and Taiwan Jones have more than offset the losses of Shaq Lawson, Jordan Phillips and Kevin Johnson.
Players who sign contracts for the veteran minimum salary are not believed to factor into the compensatory formula. Terms of Jones' contract have not yet been released, so it's possible he falls into that category.
Even if he did, Buffalo would need at least three of their remaining unrestricted free agents to get a sizable contract elsewhere to put them in position to be in line for a compensatory pick. That seems unlikely, given that Buffalo's remaining free agents are running backs Frank Gore and Senorise Perry, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, safety Kurt Coleman, defensive tackle Corey Liuget and linebackers Maurice Alexander and Julian Stanford.
One of Bills General Manager Brandon Beane's stated goals is building his roster to the point that departing free agents can produce compensatory picks. Beane, though, has been realistic about that possibility being remote for the 2021 draft.
"We're getting there," he said in January. "I would love to say we're at that point where we're going to get them. I think they do help you. We’ve had to use other avenues, whether it’s trading a player at the end of camp or things like that to add some of those picks that you can get. The more we can continue to draft and just re-sign our own, and then when you lose a few and not have to dig into the free agent market, it helps."
The Bills have seven draft picks next month after trading away three and getting one back from the Minnesota Vikings last month in the deal that brought them wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
"The teams that have taken advantage of (compensatory draft picks) have been the teams with stability and not having a bunch of changes," Beane said. "We're still early in this going into year four of a total rebuild, so I think Sean (McDermott) and I will get there with that, but I can’t say this will definitely be a year that’ll happen."