The Kansas City Chiefs on Monday signed CB Stanford Routt to a three-year contract and in doing so gave us a clearer picture of what's to come in the 2012 free agency period. The Chiefs are now expected to see CB Brandon Carr walk in search of the contract he's seeking while placing the franchise tag on WR Dwayne Bowe, keeping him in KC at least another year. Those are the two big free agency decisions, at least when it comes to the guys in-house.
As I've indicated time and time again, I'm a big fan of Carr. I wanted him to stay in KC. But I'm also cognizant of the business side. Carr wants to test free agency. The Chiefs won't pay both their cornerbacks top 10 money. It's a weak cornerback market. Carr will get paid. It's not always about a bitter divorce. Sometimes it's just that simple.
One of the potential hidden benefits of Carr's exit -- assuming he leaves, which is a pretty good assumption -- lies (or is it lays?) with compensatory picks.
In March or April, the league will award 32 compensatory picks based on last year's free agency period. And in March or April of 2013, the league will do the same for the free agency period that's starting in a couple of weeks.
It's a confusing process because the comp pick formula is locked away in the NFL offices but basically it's this: if a team loses more qualifying free agents than they sign, they'll be eligible for compensatory picks, ranging from the third to seventh round. It's all about parity in the NFL (take note, other pro leagues) and this gives draft picks to the teams that are losing free agents.
I'll simplify this more than it should be but when it comes to Carr the Chiefs could be eligible for a compensatory pick. The formula for determining the draft pick involves how much Carr signs for elsewhere, his playing time the following year and any postseason awards. So if Carr leaves and signs for $10 million per year in another city and starts all 16 games, the Chiefs could be in line for a nice draft pick.
Of course, the process is based on a team's entire body of work in free agency so the Chiefs could go out and sign another team's pricey "qualifying" free agent, which could cancel out Carr.
But there is a strategy involved here and the Chiefs know it. Someone like Stanford Routt is not one of the "qualifying" free agents that could cancel our Carr because he was cut by the Oakland Raiders and not a true unrestricted free agent. He's just a player they signed and has no impact on this.
So signing someone like Routt and letting Carr walk potentially has a bonus to it. Maybe that comp pick never comes to fruition because the Chiefs sign a bunch of free agents...but maybe it does. Maybe the Chiefs pick up an extra third round pick and draft another Jon Asamoah. That would probably change my feelings on Carr leaving.
If you peel away the layers, you can start to see some of these things that the Chiefs have to take into consideration when it comes to personnel moves. It's hardly ever as simple as it seems and you rarely make a decision in a vacuum.