After Roger Goodell and the NFL upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in the Deflategate scandal and lack of cooperation during the investigation, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft came down hard on the league, calling the decision “unfathomable.”
In May, when the NFL handed down the penalties to the Patriots, Kraft announced he would not fight the punishment. It was widely speculated at the time that this was done as part of a deal (or at least, in hopes of a deal) that would get Brady’s suspension reduced or thrown out. Kraft confirmed this in his statement on Wednesday.
“I was willing to accept the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL for an alleged ball violation because I believed it would help exonerate Tom,” Kraft said. “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”
What is amazing about this is that the penalty given the team was far more damaging than the four games Brady is expected to miss to start the season.
In addition to the four-game suspension for Brady, the team was fined $US1 million and forced to surrender a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick. Kraft accepted these harsher penalties under the assumption that it would get Brady off the hook. It didn’t, and now the Patriots have given up their opportunity to appeal the team-specific penalties for nothing.
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 the Jaguars and one on the road against the Bills.
It’s not ideal, but it is not as bad as it could have been.
Also, a $US1 million fine should never be taken lightly, but in this case, the unpaid 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 even with the fine.
Rather, the biggest blow is the loss of the draft picks, especially 2016 first-round pick.
Whomever the Patriots would have selected in the first round next year has now been taken from the team, and they will never get him back.
Here are the players the Patriots selected in the first round from 2010 to 2013. All have been multiyear starters for the Patriots:
- 2010 — Devin McCourty, S (five-year starter)
- 2011 — Nate Solder, LT (four-year starter)
- 2012 — Dont’a Hightower, LB (three-year starter)
- 2013 — Chandler Jones, DE (three-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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