The NFL owners meetings get underway Monday down in Florida at that means the 2012 compensatory draft picks will be awarded for 2011 unrestricted free agents lost sometime this week.
Compensatory picks are awarded by using a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors and is also weighed against any unrestricted free agents signed from other teams in addition. The formula that is used to determine those picks was developed by the NFL Management Council and has never been made public.
The Steelers lost three unrestricted free agents last season in tight end Matt Spaeth, defensive tackle Nick Eason and linebacker Keyaron Fox. Spaeth signed a three-year, $5.975 million contract with the Chicago Bears and played nearly 370 snaps, while Eason signed a two-year, $1.95 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals and played nearly 260 snaps. Fox signed a one-year, $810,000 contract with the Washington Redskins and played in 13 games with just over 50 snaps on defense.
Judging by the latest report by Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers are likely to receive no more than a seventh-round draft compensatory pick this week and that would most likely be for Spaeth. Brown however does not make that sound like even that is set in stone though.
The Steelers did not receive any compensatory picks last year, but they did receive three compensatory picks prior to the 2010 draft for the loss of quarterback Byron Leftwich, wide receiver Nate Washington and cornerback Bryant McFadden as unrestricted free agents following the 2009 season. For the 2010 draft they were awarded two fifth round picks and one seventh round pick for those free agent losses.
As far as the current free agent period goes, the Steelers lost unrestricted free agent cornerback William Gay on Sunday to the Cardinals. Gay reportedly signed a two-year contract, but the financial details are unknown at this time. Gay should see considerable playing time in 2012 on defense for the Cardinals and could return a seventh-round compensatory pick at worst this time next year.