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Published on June 14, 2024
Atlanta Falcons Penalized with Draft Pick Forfeiture, Fine for Anti-Tampering Violations in Kirk Cousins SigningSource: Wikipedia/All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Atlanta Falcons have found themselves on the wrong end of the NFL’s law, with the team forfeiting a fifth-round pick for the 2025 draft and coughing up $250,000 in fines due to breaches in anti-tampering protocols. According to a report by Atlanta News First, these violations occurred in the events leading up to their signing of the prized quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as two other free agents: wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Woerner.

During the league's legal tampering window which opened on March 11, the Falcons reportedly agreed to terms prematurely, setting Cousins up with a four-year, $180 million deal, including $100 million guaranteed. Mooney and Woerner quickly followed, securing lucrative contracts of their own; however, Cousins' comments during his introductory news conference, as captured by Atlanta News First, seemed to imply engagements with the Falcons' medical and PR staff prior to allowed timeframes, sparking an NFL investigation.

"There’s great people here," Cousins was reported saying. "And it’s not just the football team. I mean, I’m looking at the support staff. Meeting — calling, yesterday, calling our head athletic trainer, talking to our head of PR. I’m thinking, we got good people here. And that’s exciting to be a part of," as reported by Atlanta News  First.

Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot has also been fined $50,000 for his role in the incidents. Interestingly, the Philadelphia Eagles escaped similar penalties due to insufficient evidence in their recruitment of running back Saquon Barkley. This, despite comments from Penn State coach James Franklin seemingly indicating direct contact between Barkley and the Eagles' General Manager Howie Roseman prior to the permissible period. According to a report by U.S. News, the NFL's comprehensive review, including interviews and document analysis, did not support a tampering verdict against Eagles.

Comparatively, the Miami Dolphins faced a more severe penalty in 2022, losing both a first and third-round pick for tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton. Different cases, similar rule—clearly, the NFL is maintaining a hard line when it comes to premature negotiations and communication. With every investigation, a statement from the NFL notes, the league stands ready to reassess should new evidence come to light, essentially serving as a reminder to all teams that bending the rules is a high-stakes gamble in the world of professional football.