Jerry Jones was Smart to Let Stephen Bowen Sign with the Redskins


Dallas Cowboys Owner and GM Jerry Jones now has a total of eight draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.  The Cowboys were awarded a 4th round pick, 135th overall, as a compensatory pick.  The Cowboys were awarded the 135th pick because Stephen Bowen was signed by the Washington Redskins before the 2011 season.

The process for determining which teams are awarded compensatory draft picks, and which specific pick they receive, is nebulous.  The basics of the compensatory draft picks system are as follows:

– the extra picks are awarded to teams that have lost more qualifying free agents than they gained the previous year in free agency.

– the NFL can award a maximum of 32 compensatory picks.

– not every free agent ‘qualifies’ for consideration.  The formula used to determine which free agents qualify is based on playing time, salary, and postseason honors.

– the extra picks are added to the end of Rounds 3-7.  The specific position of the awarded pick is based on the lost player’s playing time, salary, and post-season honors.  The primary factor appears to be the player’s salary: if you lose a LB that signs for 1.5 million, you may get a 6th round pick, but if you lose a LB that signs for 8 million, you will get one in an earlier round.

– if a team signs the same number of free agents as they lose, they may still receive a compensatory selection if the players they lost had more “value” than the ones they signed; picks awarded on this basis are always in the 7th round. (The formula is based on the players’ salaries and performance).

– compensatory draft picks can not be traded

– each NFL franchise is eligible for a maximum of 4 compensatory draft picks.

– when less than 32 picks are awarded based on the formula, the remaining picks are awarded based on when the teams would pick in a hypothetical eighth round of the draft;  these unearned compensatory picks are referred to as “supplemental compensatory selections”.

Given the current state of the Dallas Cowboys roster, an extra draft pick is reason for Cowboy fans to be excited.  It is possible to find quality players even in the 4th round.

Jerry Jones takes a lot of criticism for the choices he has made in previous Drafts.  It has always seemed odd that fans want to lambaste him for mistakes such as Bobby Carpenter or Jason Williams, but they seem unable to give him credit for some of the excellent choices he has made.  Finding Tony Romo and Miles Austin, both undrafted, stick out as sagacious decisions, as does drafting Jay Ratliff, Sean Lissemore, and Bill Nagy in the 7th round.

If one examines the last 10 drafts managed by Jerry Jones, his selections in the 4th round have been pretty good.  The players drafted in the 4th round that would be classified as poor decisions include Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (2010), Isiah Steinback (2007), Skyler Green (2006), Bruce Thorton (2004) and Jamar Martin (2002).

Compare that list of 4th rounders to the players that must be considered successes: Victor Butler (2009), Tashard Choice (2008), Doug Free (2007), Chris Canty (2005), Marion Barber (2005), Bradie James (2003).  Other players drafted in the 4th round by Jerry Jones that don’t seem to be easily judged as successes or failures include: David Arkin (2011), and Stephen McGee (2009).

Looking at how the Cowboys 4th round selections have fared leads to the conclusion that it is possible to find some very good players in the 4th round, even if it is unlikely to find an eventual superstar.

One other thing that sticks out when examining the choices Jerry Jones has made in the 4th round: in the 3 years that Jones had two 4th round picks, he found at least one quality player in that round.  In 2009, they took Victor Butler and Stephen McGee, in 2007 they selected Doug Free and Isiah Steinback, and in 2005, they chose Chris Canty and Marion Barber.

The other thing to remember about this free pick is that the Cowboys didn’t exactly lose a marquee player.  In fact, you could argue that the Cowboys barely missed Stephen Bowen’s production at all in 2011.  Jason Hatcher was more than an adequate replacement.

Would you rather have Bowen and his 6 sacks as a starter in all 16 games, or Jason Hatcher’s 4.5 sacks in only 13 games AND a 4th round pick?  The Cowboys signed Hatcher to a 3-yr deal in August of 2011 that pays Hatcher a total of 6 million dollars along with a 2.5 million signing bonus.  The Redskins gave Bowen    27.5 million over 5 years with a 7.5 million signing bonus.

I remember lots of fans being angry last season when the Cowboys let Stephen Bowen sign with the Redskins, but now it seems like Jerry Jones’ decision to stick with Jason Hatcher was shrewd.

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