NFL docks Falcons 2025 fifth-round pick, fines club $250,000 for violating anti-tampering policy

The NFL found the Atlanta Falcons violated the league’s anti-tampering policy this offseason after signing three free agents, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Thursday.

The Falcons will be suspended in the 2025 fifth round and fined $250,000 for logistical violations related to the signing of three free agents in March: Cousins, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Warner. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot will also be fined $50,000.

The NFL explained in a statement: “While the policy allows clubs to handle and negotiate all aspects of an NFL player’s contract with the authorized agent of any potential unrestricted free agent during the two-day negotiation period, any direct contact between them is prohibited.” Any player and an employee or representative of the club discuss travel arrangements or other logistical matters that the club acknowledges have occurred in relation to those three players.”

“We are pleased that this review is competitive,” the Falcons said in a team statement. “We have fully cooperated with the league and its review, and we appreciate the league’s rigor. As we do in every process, we will review how we operate and look for ways to improve.”

In a separate investigation, the league determined that the Philadelphia Eagles did not tamper with free agent RB Saquon Barkley.

Other recent cases of tampering have received much more serious punishment. In 2022, the Miami Dolphins were drafted in the first and third rounds after the NFL determined that the team had violated league tampering rules following illegal contact with QB Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton while they were under contract with their other teams. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was also fined $1.5 million as part of the disciplinary finding.

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Pelissero reported that the Falcons were not punished more seriously than they were because the violations were considered administrative, such as making travel arrangements after players agreed to the terms of the contract. The NFL also found no evidence of contact with players or their representatives before the free agency negotiating window opened.

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