Well, Mario is about as certain as you can get to a 3rd round compensatory pick, assuming the Texans don't blow it by signing someone that would knock out the pick. The Texans' FO needs to keep this in mind for any free agents signed this year. I'd hate to see some case where they sign some low-level FA who they don't need badly, and that person effectively costs them a 3rd round pick.
For our numbers, if we look at the 16 players listed as FAs on the Texans' website, there are only 4 that I would think are pretty certain to make the cut as far as counting toward compensatory picks (if they leave): Brisiel, Dreessen, Myers, and Williams. Some others very well might also, but the FO has to be careful about how many higher-priced people they sign. They could easily turn around and lose some good compensatory picks if they're not careful. For example that third-string QB they might look to sign for insurance would get a lot more expensive if he also costs a mid-round pick.
Back to Doppleganger's original post, I think there is one other provision where if you have the same
number of people signed as lost, you can still get a compensatory pick if the value of those lost is significantly greater than those signed. If I remember, in this case, it's a much
later round pick. For us, that could mean that even if we sign the same number of FAs that we lose, we could still get a 7th or 6th for Mario, which would still stink.
the blog of they guy who used to do the compensatory pick analysis. He didn't do them last year, but if you look at his archives, I think he's got the details of the formula worked out as much as anyone publicly as been able to figure them out.
Oh, and one other point - I'm pretty sure that compensatory picks can't be traded. Not sure if that's what DerekLee1 meant (or if you meant other trades that can be made since we do have compensatories).