The NFL's spying scandal came to end when Commissioner Roger Goodell fined New England head coach Bill Belichick the NFL maximum $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and took away conditional draft picks. If New England makes it to the playoffs, it loses its first-round pick in 2008. If it misses the playoffs, it forfeits its second- and third-round picks in 2008.
Obviously, Belichick and team owner Bob Kraft have deep enough pockets that they can simply write Goodell a quick check. So while the fines are impressive and clearly discourage this type of behavior in the future, they should have no impact on the on-field product. And there's reason to believe losing the draft picks will leave a minor blemish on this organization. After all, the Patriots acquired a first-round pick from San Francisco and a third-round pick from Oakland in trades last year.
Now that doesn't mean Goodell's ruling is soft. In fact, it forces New England to alter a key draft-day strategy and could penalize it for acting out of character during free agency last year.