Monday, July 15, 2024

Falcons fined, stripped of draft pick for breaking NFL tampering rules with Kirk Cousins

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The NFL has issued its long-awaited rulings in the tampering cases against the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

Conclusion? Not all that much to see here.

The league announced Thursday that was not sufficient evidence to penalize the Eagles amid their (ultimately successful) free agent pursuit of running back Saquon Barkley. The Falcons, meanwhile, will forfeit next year’s fifth-round draft pick and pay a $250,000 fine for violating the anti-tampering policy “related to improper contact with prospective unrestricted free agents Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney, and Charlie Woerner” prior to this year’s permitted negotiating window ahead of March’s official opening of the free agent market. Atlanta general manager Terry Fontenot will also pay a $50,000 fine.

Regarding the Falcons’ punishment, the league expressed in a statement: “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. This includes discussion of travel arrangements or other logistical matters, which the club acknowledges took place with regard to these three players.”

Cousins, the Falcons’ new quarterback, Mooney and Werner all signed with Atlanta – Cousins getting a four-year, $180 million contract that enticed him to leave the Minnesota Vikings after six years in the Twin Cities.

As for the Eagles’ case, the NFL revealed it “reviewed phone logs, text messages and other documents related to Philadelphia’s free agency strategy and decision to sign Barkley. The NFL also interviewed several members of the organization, including (GM) Howie Roseman and (head coach) Nick Sirianni, as well as Barkley and Penn State head coach James Franklin.  As with every review, should new evidence be uncovered, the league may reopen the investigation.”

Franklin was Barkley’s coach in Happy Valley from 2015 to 2017. Barkley was drafted second overall in 2018 by the New York Giants, his lone NFL employer before jumping to their NFC East archrivals.

The rulings bring resolution to controversies that arose from two of this offseason’s most high-profile free-agent signings. After Cousins signed with the Falcons, he indicated during his introductory news conference that he’d had contact with Atlanta’s head trainer before the new league year began March 13. While agents are permitted to speak with teams during the negotiation window, players who do not represent themselves are barred from contact.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank told USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell in March that the organization had done “nothing intentional” to circumvent league rules.

“I know there was no tampering from our standpoint,” Blank said. “Whatever conversation there was, was very innocent. We’ll see. Whatever the league decides, we’ll deal with it.”

Barkley agreed to a three-year, $37.75 million contract with Philadelphia on March 11, when the negotiating window opened. One day later, however, Franklin said that his former star pupil had relayed a conversation with Roseman. The Eagles denied any wrongdoing, and Barkley said Franklin’s depiction was not accurate.

“Coach Franklin, I think, kind of misinterpreted,” Barkley said in his introductory news conference. “The truth was the sales pitch to Penn State, how many Penn State fans are Philadelphia Eagles fans. But that was through my agent and my agent told me that. It happens. I’m going to let Philly handle that.”

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