The NFL did take its time, but on Sunday it announced the outcome of its investigation into the New England Patriots. The team, which admitted to illegally filming eight minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline last December as part of a documentary film series called Do Your Job, was fined $1.1 million and also will have to forfeit a third-round selection in next year’s draft. Furthermore, the club’s in-house television crews are not allowed to shoot any games during the upcoming season.
What does all of this mean for the Patriots, though? Let’s find out.
Their sloppiness cost them
After the accusations against the team first broke the news last year, and it quickly released a statement admitting its error, we wrote that the Patriots again found themselves in a vulnerable position and that the organization needed to be more diligent:
The film crew may have consisted of independent contractors and not been involved with the football department, yes, but somebody either higher up the organizational ladder or from the team’s staff at hand had to be aware that pointing a camera onto the field during a game — even if just for shooting B-roll material — could lead to potential trouble for a team twice before disciplined by the NFL.
Despite no malicious intent or involvement of their football operations — neither head coach Bill Belichick nor his staff were fined by the league — the Patriots were in the wrong. Their sloppiness cost them.
Their past has likely factored into the league’s decision
When the league has previously stripped draft picks from clubs, the violation (either proven to be true or simply based on unproven allegations) always had to do with the football operations — from salary cap infractions to tampering to breaking practice or injury rules. New England’s football operations, as noted above, were not involved in this current affair and yet the league still decided to punish it by taking away a selection.
The infraction alone would likely not have warranted such a move by the NFL, but it seems as if the league’s decision was impacted by the fact that the Patriots were already fined twice since 2007: they had to vacate first-round selections for both the Spygate and Deflategate affairs.
They still have plenty of draft capital next year
While the Patriots no longer own their third-round pick next year, they are still projected to have plenty of capital available (compensatory selections based on Over The Cap’s calculations):
Losing a third-rounder obviously hurts, but the Patriots are still well-equipped to maneuver around the board due to the compensatory selections they are projected to receive from their free agency losses this year: Tom Brady will likely bring them the highest available pick (the now-96th overall selection), with Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins being currently projected as fourth-rounders. Van Noy, however, could move his pick into the third round based on playing time and other parameters.
Their reputation takes another hit
New England has always successfully followed its “Ignore the Noise” mantra, but its reputation takes another hit because of the penalties — not just in fan circles and some uneducated parts of the media. This could also become important on a league-level. The NFL’s Deflategate penalties (2015) were reportedly as harsh as they were because some team owners lobbied against the Patriots due to their perceived track record: they thought the team was let off lightly back in 2007 for the Spygate scandal.
Even though it should not impact the league’s decision making, reputation does matter something in the competitive, back-stabbing world that is the NFL. The Patriots’ just took another hit.