The Bills won’t have any compensation picks in 2020. They probably won’t have any in 2021, either.
The NFL’s formula to determine compensation picks is guarded tighter than the recipes for KFC and Bush’s Baked Beans, but step one to gaining picks is losing more free agents than you add.
So far, Buffalo has signed seven qualifying free agents and lost only three. Here’s the list of who the Bills still have available to lose. It’s hard to envision a scenario where the Bills get to the plus side of the comp pick formula (though, we all have time on our hands. Have at it).
Brandon Beane hasn’t landed a comp pick with the Bills yet, but he has just about cornered another draft pick market. It’s one that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much (or at all).
There are assets to be had during training camp for the general manager with an excess of useful pieces, especially after final cuts when injuries and busted plans leave teams hurting for a starter.
No one has exploited this market better than Beane.
(For the purpose of this article, the “market” in question is limited only to trades that are explicitly selling off pieces for draft picks. These are trades that occur between the start of camp to before the season opener–more or less late July through early September. Player for player trades are not included. Any trade that’s a larger roster changer is not included. ie. Khalil Mack trade or Beane’s Sammy Watkins/Ronald Darby double deal)
In his two-plus seasons and three camps as Bills GM, Beane has attacked the preseason pick market five times by trading away Cardale Jones, Reggie Ragland, AJ McCarron, Russell Bodine and Wyatt Teller.
The Bills netted a 4th round pick, two 5th’s and two 6th’s in those deals, despite the Jones trade amounting to nothing because the conditions of the deal were not met.
Only the Browns have successfully dumped more players for picks during preseason, making five such moves that all earned a return. However, Cleveland gained no better than a 7th round pick in three of them.
Beane may already be well on his way to more draft pick collecting this preseason (whenever it happens) thanks to his last two free agent additions.
Last week, the Bills brought back cornerback and old friend E.J. Gaines. They also added offensive tackle Darryl Williams, the latest in a long line of familiar faces from Panther-ville.
Neither is an addition in a position of obvious need. The Bills already had three potential starters at corner (Levi Wallace, Josh Norman, the All-Pro guy) and offensive tackle (Cody Ford, Ty Nsekhe, Dion Dawkins). At both spots, the Bills could now be trying to fit four cars into a two-car garage.
Those are also the perfect positions to have a problem of excess.
In three of the last five seasons, offensive line has been the position most most used as currency on the preseason pick market. Defensive back was tops the other two years. Only once was either spot not first or second. Both positions have been turned into draft picks a total of 24 times since 2015. That’s, by far, the most.
To sum up, the Bills’ version of Michelangelo just delivered himself fresh brushes and canvas.
This certainly doesn’t mean Beane will be trading for draft picks from either position group when camp is over. Expanded rosters this season make it logical to carry extra quality depth, especially at offensive line because one of the additional players who can dress on game day must play at that spot. The need for depth probably goes double for a squad like the Bills with legit Super Bowl aspirations and the whole plan only has a chance to work if Buffalo can avoid the injury bug.
Should all go well, Beane will be poised to strike before the season begins. He’s the only GM with a chance to cash in on the preseason pick market for a fourth straight season.
He doesn’t need the NFL’s stinkin’ compensation formula. Beane can bag the Bills some picks on his own.