Over the past few days, I've seen a lot of questions regarding compensatory picks. Surely, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers let Josh Freeman go in free agency they would get a compensatory pick, which they wouldn't get if they traded him? The answer is not so simple, however.
Compensatory picks are generally awarded for net losses in free agency. That is: any spending you do offsets any free agents you have lost. That's why when the Buccaneers signed Carl Nicks away from the New Orleans Saints and Vincent Jackson away from the San Diego Chargers, neither team received any compensatory picks: they spent in free agency themselves. With Freeman not requiring a new contract, the Bucs are likely to have enough cap space to sign a player or two next season.
Moreover, which compensatory pick a team receives depends on the size of the contract and the playing time the departing player receives with his new team. If Freeman were to sign a backup contract somewhere, the Bucs would receive very little even if they were to remain quiet in free agency themselves. Finally, any such pick would only come in 2015, not in 2014, which further diminishes the value of a compensatory pick (though it perhaps shouldn't).
A trade for the Buccaneers would also come with another benefit: it would lower the cap hit the Bucs would have to absorb, as any new team will take on a substantial portion of Freeman's nearly $7 million salary. While the Bucs will likely have to take on some of that salary to make a trade work, getting a few million off the books is always useful -- and they would lose that benefit if they were to wait for a compensatory pick, one they probably wouldn't even receive.