LA Chargers: Breaking down the Desmond King compensatory pick myth
By Jason Reed
The LA Chargers traded Desmond King to the Tennesee Titans on Monday and some fans are not happy.
After months of speculation, tweeting about not getting enough playing time and being a healthy scratch in Week 8 against the Denver Broncos, the LA Chargers finally pulled the trigger and traded Desmond King.
King was sent to the Tennesee Titans for a sixth-round pick. For many, this price was extremely low for a player that was an All-Pro in 2018, but it made sense. We broke down why a sixth-round pick for a half a season of King made sense yesterday.
There has been another narrative that has since emerged, though. If the LA Chargers just wanted to get something out of King then they should have let him walk in free agency, right?
For those that are unaware, teams get compensatory draft picks in the NFL Draft for losing players in free agency. For example, the Chargers are slated to have a compensatory third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, mostly due to losing Philip Rivers.
The argument has since become that the Chargers could have gotten more for letting him sign elsewhere in free agency. However, that argument does not stand.
a sixth for desmond king is just absurd — not convinced you wouldn't get a better comp pick if you just let him walk
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) November 2, 2020
There are multiple factors that decide how much a player is worth when they sign elsewhere, including the size of the contract, the previous accolades and how that compares to other free agents. Over The Cap does a fantastic job of breaking it down here.
We cannot sit here right now and know for certain what round the pick would be for King as the rest of the market has to shake out. However, we can use this past offseason as a starting point to the value of King.
Melvin Gordon, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Denver Broncos, would have only netted the Chargers a fifth-round compensatory pick. Chris Harris, who made $8.5 million this season, also would have netted the Broncos a fifth-round pick.
Despite his All-Pro season two years ago, King has not been good the last two years. Out of the 34 players that played 200 snaps in the slot last season, King allowed the fifth-highest passer rating with zero interceptions. He allowed 36 receptions on 41 targets. He was not great.
You can make the case that he might have a breakout half-season with the Titans and up his free-agent value. That could happen, but King is still a very limited player. He cannot play on the outside and he is not great in returning punts. He is a slot corner through and through and someone who can also provide depth at safety.
Players that get pigeonholed into one specific position on defense do not get paid that much. A perfect example of this is New York Jets’ cornerback, Brian Poole.
Poole played 628 snaps at slot corner last season out of 840 total defensive snaps. Not only did he play more snaps at slot corner than King did last year, but he was better.
Poole actually had the fourth-lowest passer rating allowed among slot corners with at least 200 snaps (remember, King was fifth-highest) and allowed a reception every 13 coverage snaps. King allowed a reception every 9.1 coverage snaps.
Poole was absolutely better than King last season. At the time of signing, he was 27, King will be 26. How much did Poole get signed for as a bonafide slot corner that isn’t great on the outside? $3 million for one season.
Poole was much better than King was last season (and this season) and was a similar age to King and only got $3 million. King would not have raised his value much higher than that in the second half of the season in LA.
Yes, King has an All-Pro to his name, but that lone All-Pro three seasons ago is not going to be a big enough factor to swing the compensatory pick that far. Gordon was a multiple-time Pro Bowler, signed a contract with a salary that will be twice as much as King’s and still was only worth a fifth.
Adrian Phillips, who was signed for $3 million by the New England Patriots in the offseason, would have only been worth a seventh-round compensatory pick. So chances are that King, at the absolute most would have been worth a compensatory sixth.
A regular sixth is better than a compensatory sixth and the Chargers only would have gotten that sixth if they didn’t sign someone of equal value. Now, they have the power to sign someone of equal value and still get that pick.
Plus, the Chargers have that pick in 2021 and can use it for depth or to trade up. A compensatory pick would not have been granted until the 2022 NFL Draft. It is better to get that asset now rather than later.
So no, the LA Chargers would not have gotten better draft capital if they let King play out the rest of the season and sign elsewhere. He would not have broken out in LA and would have been worth a similar contract that Brian Poole signed.