Only the New England Patriots were awarded more compensatory picks than the Vikings for the upcoming NFL draft. The Vikings have three additional selections, including a third-rounder, for the draft April 23-25.
After last month’s free-agent exodus, the Vikings are again positioned well to reap draft capital for departed talent in the 2021 draft. But updated rules in the recently approved collective bargaining agreement make projecting those future draft picks a volatile exercise.
The Vikings might gain two to four comp picks (the maximum) for the 2021 draft after losing qualified free agents in cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, defensive end Stephen Weatherly, and safeties Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse.
OverTheCap.com projects the Vikings to get three picks, including a third-rounder for Waynes, a sixth-rounder for Alexander and a seventh-rounder for Sendejo. Given modest playing time by the Bengals, Waynes ($14 million annually) and Alexander ($4 million) signed at salaries likely high enough to ensure a comp pick.
Whether that’s all the Vikings get falls on mid-level signings Sendejo and Kearse, who will need to be valued among the top 35% of free agents — an increased threshold from 50% — to return compensatory picks. The biggest change to the NFL’s formula — a veiled equation ranking free agents by average salary, playing time and postseason awards — is the inclusion of incentives and bonuses.
That change prevents teams from hiding money in the equation, something that happened two years ago when the Eagles gave 200-pound receiver Mike Wallace a nearly $600,000 incentive for reporting under 250 pounds.
Under the new rules, if an outgoing free agent signs a deal with playing-time incentives (such as Kearse’s max of $750,000 in Detroit), his value as a compensatory pick has additional range because his salary increases with his playing time. Kearse’s current $2 million salary in Detroit is outside the top 35%, according to OverTheCap.com, but a healthy snap count and a $2.75 million salary is enough to return another late-round draft pick.
While the Vikings are projected to get a 2021 seventh-round pick for Sendejo’s $2.25 million deal in Cleveland, it’s possible he slides out of the top 35% because of other free agents achieving incentives and bonuses Sendejo lacks.
The Vikings’ only qualified addition is former Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce, who got a three-year, $27 million deal. That is projected to nullify Weatherly’s signing with the Panthers, according to OverTheCap.com.
Defensive end Everson Griffen, who remains unsigned after announcing his departure from Minnesota last month, is a noncompensatory free agent, according to the NFL’s transaction wire. Released players such as nose tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and guard Josh Kline also will not count toward the Vikings’ 2021 compensatory picks.