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DeflateGate: Despite Savvy Draft Trade, Patriots are Still Punished in the 4th Round

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The Patriots were smart enough to add a 2017 4th round pick- but that doesn't free them entirely.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio conducted some smart wheeling-and-dealing on draft day that converted a pair of 2016 6th round picks and a 7th rounder into a 2017 4th round pick.

Per the punishment of DeflateGate, the Patriots are stripped of their best 2017 4th round pick, so adding the Seahawks 2017 4th round mitigates some of the loss. The language of the punishment is interesting because the Patriots lose their earliest pick in the 4th round.

"If the Patriots have more than one selection in either of these rounds," the DeflateGate punishment edict reads. "The earlier selection shall be forfeited. The club may not trade or otherwise encumber these selections."

Originally, I thought the language was including as a throwback to the 2008 draft, where the Patriots lost the 31st overall pick due to SpyGate, but still retained their top 10 pick that they had acquired the year before from the San Francisco 49ers. The language would also seem to account for compensatory picks in the 4th round.

It turns out that the language might be even more brutal.

The second sentence "the club may not trade or otherwise encumber these selections" doesn't just limit the Patriots draft picks- it affects the picks the team has acquired.

"The Patriots would have to wait until after the 2017 draft order is determined before they are able to trade a pick in [the 4th] round," the NFL said in a statement to Pats Pulpit.

So while the Patriots have added a 2017 4th round pick, they're now stuck holding onto it and cannot use it as trade capital for a midseason acquisition. The penalty probably doesn't change the reasoning behind the Patriots decision to trade for a future pick, but it adds some red tape that was previously unaccounted for.