NFL punishes Falcons for tampering; Eagles cleared

The Atlanta Falcons were stripped of their fifth-round pick in next year’s draft for violating the NFL’s anti-tampering policy, the league announced Thursday.

The Falcons also were fined $250,000 and general manager Terry Fontenot $50,000 for the team’s improper contact with prospective unrestricted free agents Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney and Charlie Woerner prior to the start of the 2024 league year.

Also on Thursday, the NFL informed the Philadelphia Eagles that it did not discover sufficient evidence to support a finding that the team violated the league’s anti-tampering policy.

The NFL was looking into the Eagles’ pursuit of free-agent running back Saquon Barkley. The Penn State product inked a three-year, $37.75 million contract that includes $26 million guaranteed at the signing.

Cousins agreed to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed shortly after the opening of the league’s legal tampering window.

“While the policy permits clubs to engage with and negotiate all aspects of an NFL player contract with the certified agent of any prospective unrestricted free agent during the two-day negotiating period, any direct contact between the player and an employee or representative of the club is prohibited,” the league said in a statement to the Falcons. “This includes discussion of travel arrangements or other logistical matters, which the club acknowledges took place with regard to these three players.”

The Falcons released the following statement in response to league’s conclusion:

“We are pleased this review is complete. We cooperated fully with the league and its review, and appreciate the NFL’s thoroughness. As we do with every process, we will review how we operate and look for ways to improve.”

As for clearing the Eagles, the league issued the following statement:

“In coming to this conclusion, the league reviewed phone logs, text messages and other documents related to Philadelphia’s free agent strategy and decision to sign Barkley.”

The Miami Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a third-round selection in 2024 for tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton.

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a sixth-round selection in 2017 for tampering with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in 2015.

The Dolphins and Chiefs also were fined as part of their respective punishments.

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