By now you've probably heard that the Falcons were "severely" punished by the NFL for pumping artificial crowd-noise at home games during the 2013 and 2014 NFL seasons. Speculation in the weeks leading up to the official announcement were all over the place. Some were predicting the loss of at least one top draft pick (possibly a first or second round pick), while others felt the punishment would be strictly financial or may include a late round pick.
In recent days, that speculation amplified as professional insiders like Adam Schefter predicted "severe" penalties. Most in the industry believed a draft pick between the 2nd and 4th rounds was likely. Additional fines and possibly even reduced salary cap space were all rumored possibilities. But that all ended up being just speculation, as we now have the run-down on each punishment levied, and what it ultimately means for the team.
Loss of top 2016 5th round draft pick
To fans, this punishment was the one most everyone was interested in. Would it be a first round pick? A second round pick? Would it hit this year or next? Well, the answer is that it will hit next year and will be our highest available 5th round pick (should the team end up with more than one).
Considering that speculation was that the Falcons were going to lose a pick in the first three rounds, a fifth round pick seems like a dream scenario. But it's still a lost draft pick, and for a team that will likely still be looking to retool the roster in 2016, it still stings. Granted, it's somewhat rare that teams find future pro-bowlers in the fifth round, but depending on the quality of the draft, there is still the possibility of finding a good special teams player and someone with potential to develop. It's not a huge loss, but it is still a penalty that emphasizes the stupidity of what incurred it.
Fine of $350,000
I'd venture to say that if anyone on the Falcoholic staff was hit with a $350k fine, that would likely mean imminent homelessness for most of us. But Arthur Blank is not a poor writer/blogger, and he's likely to survive this unfortunate fine.
The impact to the team is non-existent though, as this fine has no impact on the salary cap or to player salaries.
Rich McKay temporarily loses chairmanship of competition committee
Of all the penalties incurred, this one is the most interesting. McKay has been an important behind-the-scenes player for Blank since being removed as GM back in 2008. He's been involved with multiple aspects of the Falcons organization, including overseeing the new stadium. He's an influential member within the Falcons organization, and this punishment is likely being received very poorly inside of Flowery Branch. However, the suspension is only for 3 months, and McKay can reapply for the committee after June 30th of this year.
As for the team, and it's ability to operate, there is no impact.
Roddy White to blame, potentially suspended for 8 weeks
First, let me say: we're not referring to the wide receiver. Rather, we're talking about the former Director of Event Marketing Roddy White - who was identified as "solely" to blame for piping in the crowd noise. White has already been fired by the Falcons, but should another team hire him, he may still be suspended for 8 weeks without pay.
While the loss of the fifth round pick next year is not good, it is far better than the speculation was indicating it would be. The idea of losing any pick in the first four rounds seemed rough, even more so if it were applied this year. The fact that it is in 2016 will give the Falcons plenty of time to plan around that loss - and possibly come up with replacement plans for it.
As for the other penalties, the Falcons as a team are largely unaffected. Make no mistake: Arthur Blank is not a happy man right now, and Rich McKay could be feeling the wrath as we speak. But for the players, the coaches and the team as a whole, the impact is minimal.
Thankfully, this whole, stupid episode appears to be behind the team - and it's fans - for right now.