How the Cleveland Browns can obtain additional compensatory picks
Although overthecap.com used to publish reliable estimates of which departing free agents would result in compensation, they so far have not published such a list for 2022 and say that it is just too much work. In lieu of that, as a wild guess, there are only two departing free agents that would definitely result in a compensatory draft pick for the Browns, namely Jadeveon Clowney and David Njoku.
Takk McKinley would normally be included on the list, but since he has an Achilles tendon injury, it’s not clear that he will play in 2022. Anthony Walker, Jr. tentatively makes the list on the grounds that he is believed to have qualified for a 7th round pick on behalf of Indianapolis, although that was canceled by the signing of offensive tackle Sam Tevi.
However, after being recycled once by the Browns, Walker may or may not make the list again this season.
Free agents who may bring compensation.
Player Position Age 2021 Salary
Jadeveon Clowney EDGE 29 $8,000,000
David Njoku TE 26 $8,191,434
Takkarist McKinley* EDGE 27 $4,250,000
Anthony Walker Jr.** LB 27 $3,000,000
*injured and may not play.
**may or may not bring in a 7th round pick
As a guess, Clowney and Njoku will be in line for pay raises and could justify fourth to fifth-round compensatory picks. There are other free agents leaving that probably are not going to bring compensation. They are listed below.
Free agents who are probably not bringing compensation.
Player Position Age 2021 Salary
Malik Jackson IDL 32 $3,750,000
Chris Hubbard LT 31 $3,500,000
Rashard Higgins WR 28 $2,377,500
M.J. Stewart S 27 $1,270,780
Malcolm Smith LB 33 $1,212,500
2021 was one of the most favorable markets for signing free agents because Covid caused NFL-wide revenues to decline drastically, which in turn resulted in a drop in the salary cap allowance for each team. This year, however, NFL revenues are back, and it is going to be one of the most expensive free-agent markets in history.
Teams are going to be shocked at the prices that are going to be paid compared to last year. Agents are going to be overjoyed.
The Browns would be wise to keep at least one compensatory pick. That means signing one major free agent, with the remaining free agents under the threshold for canceling the compensatory draft pick. That is, one player in the Clowney range and everyone else below the Anthony Walker, Jr. line.
If the free-agent signee is not a defensive end, strong consideration should be given to using high draft choices for expensive positions such as defensive end or cornerback if they can be day one starters, because it is unlikely that a good starter can be found at those positions at the Anthony Walker pay limit.
Discipline is needed to bring home an extra draft pick or two every season. Anyway, when the big dollars kick in for Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield, it will not be possible to throw money at multiple big free agents year after year.
Thus, they are better off keeping their eye on the compensatory pick. Avoid signing the unnecessary free agent who will once again torpedo their compensatory draft picks. Especially this year, with the influx of salary cap dollars, the Browns must not rush out and sign overpriced free agents. This is especially true if the Browns are hitting on picks like Donovan Peoples-Jones and Demetric Felton in Round 6. They cannot just throw away the opportunity to obtain more picks.
Since the Browns think they are so short on wide receivers, they might as well re-sign Rashard Higgins. There is no Odell Beckham, Jr., bless his heart, and some thought will be given to cutting Jarvis Landry on the grounds that he had a down year and his salary is too high to have a down year. Maybe so, but in 2022’s free-agent market, his salary is not as crazy as we might think.
Anyway, every year they try to fire Higgins, and then they realize he catches passes. Just sign him.
Note also, if they can bite the bullet on Jarvis Landry, if he leaves after completing his contract the Browns will probably get a fourth-round pick when he leaves. Cut him now, and receive nothing. If they re-sign Higgins and keep Landry, then all of a sudden there is no crisis at wide receiver, with Landry, Peoples-Jones, Higgins, Andrew Schwartz, and Demetric Felton in the slot. It’s not necessarily a strength, but it’s not a crisis, either.
The Browns should not be throwing away compensatory draft picks. Signing millions of dollars of very overpriced free agents — at least double the price of last season’s crop — this offseason is just not a good idea on its own merits, and losing draft picks makes it a doubly bad idea. This year, it’s time to cool it, sign mainly those players who do not count against the compensatory draft pick system and catch up to the other teams in the AFC North.