It's nice to see that the Falcons are now one of the teams that "gets it" when it comes to compensatory picks.
An example of a team that missed the boat and cost themselves a good pick: the Cardinals lost Antonio Smith in free agency in 2009 and would have received a third round pick this year. But they also signed backup running back Jason Wright - and gave him a contract large enough to count.
(side note: Wright was one of our undrafted rookie signings in 2004 and ended up appearing in two games for the Falcons that year.)
Wright carried the ball THREE times for the Cardinals in 2009. He wasn't injured or anything - he was on the active roster for every game. They simply didn't use him. But because the timing and salary made him count as part of the magic formula, Arizona had as many significant free agents coming as they did going. So to get those three carries last year, the Cardinals lost out on a third round pick this year.
The alternative: when you're in line to receive a good compensatory pick, wait until after the official free agency period ends (shortly before training camp begins) to sign those fringe guys. Or sign players who were released by their previous teams, since they don't count.
(Before anybody jumps on this thinking I'm saying teams should build their entire offseason strategies around comp picks, I'm not saying that at all. Last year's big free agents like Albert Haynesworth or T.J. WhosYourMama certainly were worth it. I'm referring to the borderline guys - players like Antoine Harris or Tony Gilbert from last year's Falcons roster. You wouldn't be willing to give up a third rounder to sign a guy like Charlie Peprah, would you? That's pretty much what Arizona did.)
The Cardinals could just as easily have found a suitable fifth or sixth player for their backfield off the street, as an undrafted rookie, off of waivers after preseason roster cuts, or plucked from another team's practice squad. Atlanta signed Verron Haynes and later Aaron Stecker that way and added Antone Smith to the practice squad without costing ourselves a compensatory pick.
Other Falcon additions that didn't count: Will Svitek, Marty Booker, and Robert Ferguson (who lost out to Eric Weems and Brian Finneran for the last WR spots). Booker and Ferguson were signed after Harry Douglas was injured, but the team had already scheduled visits and workouts for free agent WRs (including Ferguson) even before HD's injury. Also: OL Jeremy Newberry (who promptly retired) and LB Jamie Winborn (who lost out to Gilbert and Spencer Adkins for the final LB spots).
Our own Lawyer Milloy was signed by the Seahawks after the end of the official free agency period, which is why he didn't count towards the Falcons possibly receiving another pick.
The Falcons will NOT be in line for a compensatory pick next year. We didn't lose any free agents this year that mattered. Chris Redman, Brian Williams, and Brian Finneran all re-signed. This is the perfect year to sign anyone we want to fill in the gaps.
So have no fear over the signing of Matt Giordano or any other player we might sign over the next month or two. We're not throwing away future comp picks by signing them. Bring 'em on!
One other question that has yet to be answered... will there even be comp picks in next year's draft? Compensatory picks came in with the early free agency. This year's comp picks are tied to last year's signings, so they're still in the system even though 2010 is an uncapped year. But comp picks for next year might depend on the terms of the next CBA.
You may have seen a note on the Falcons web site or perhaps a mention in some other article elsewhere that the team had previously received a grand total of eight compensatory picks and that this year's draft will bring the total to ten.
One note to add is that in the early days of the system, the compensatory picks could be traded. Atlanta's first compensatory pick was acquired by trade. It was a third rounder that actually had been awarded to the Broncos. We received it as part of the package for trading Mike Pritchard to the Broncos.
Our personnel head at the time, Ken Herock, used that third rounder to draft Alai Kalanuvalu. It's yet another in the long list of classic Falcons draft picks. Kalanuvalu didn't even make the roster.
Otherwise, the Falcons never had higher than a seventh round compensatory pick through the remainder of the Ken Herock years or through the Dan Reeves years in spite of losing a few big names to free agency.
Half of our comp picks have come in the last five years. Under McKay and now Dimitroff, the Falcons have received 4th and 7th rounders in 2007 (for the loss of Kevin Shaffer and Barry Stokes in 2006), a 3rd rounder in 2008 (for losing Patrick Kerney in 2007), and now 3rd and 5th rounders (for losing Domonique Foxworth and Michael Boley in 2009).
The pick for Kevin Shaffer ended up wasted on Martrez Milner, but the seventh rounder that year became Jason Snelling. And the pick for Patrick Kerney was used to take Thomas Decoud.
And Shaffer himself was the product of one of our earlier comp picks - a seventh rounder in 2002. The other two Dan Reeves comp picks were used to take WRs Rondel Menendez and Quentin McCord. Reeves certainly did a better job drafting offensive linemen than wide receivers....