The most damaging part of the Deflategate penalties for the Patriots isn't Tom Brady's suspension

The NFL has taken action against the New England Patriots for deflating footballs used in games, and the punishment is stiff.

It includes a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, a $US1 million fine for the team, and the loss of a 2016 first-round pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick.

But while most are focusing on Brady’s suspension and whether it was too long, that penalty is not nearly as bad as losing their 2016 first-round draft pick.

Losing Brady is certainly going to hurt the Pats, who will have to turn to unproven second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But consider that the Patriots started 2-2 last year and still won the Super Bowl. In addition, their first four games in 2015 are not exactly tough, including winnable games at home against the Steelers and Jaguars and one on the road against the Bills.

It’s not ideal, but it is not as bad as it could have been.

A $US1 million fine should never be taken lightly, but in this case, the suspension of Brady will actually save the Patriots $US1.8 million in salary, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com. So in some sense, the Pats will actually profit off of the suspension despite the fine.

The biggest blow is the loss of the 2016 first-round pick.

Whomever the Patriots would have selected in the first round next year has now been taken away from the team and they will never get him back.

Here are the players the Patriots selected in the first round from 2010-2013. All have been multi-year starters for the Patriots:

  • 2010 — Devin McCourty, S (5-year starter)
  • 2011 — Nate Solder, LT (4-year starter)
  • 2012 — Dont’a Hightower, LB (3-year starter)
  • 2012 — Chandler Jones, DE (3-year starter)

In other words, losing a first-round pick is the equivalent of having a good player suspended for at least four years, the length of a rookie contract. That’s a damning blow for any team, especially a team that has mastered the art of the draft.

The Pats will eventually get Brady back. But losing a first-round pick is a penalty that will cost the team a starter and will resonate on the Patriots’ roster for years.

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