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

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

The Falcons will be docked a 2025 fifth-round pick and fined $250,000 for logistical violations related to the signings this March of Cousins, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Woerner. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot also will be fined $50,000.

"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," the NFL explained in a statement, "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."

"We are pleased this review is compete," the Falcons said in a team statement. "We cooperated fully with the league and its review, and appreciate the league's thoroughness. As we do with 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 running back Saquon Barkley.

Other recent tampering cases have garnered far more serious punishment. In 2022, the Miami Dolphins were docked first- and third-round picks after the NFL determined 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 respective other teams. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also was fined $1.5 million as part of the disciplinary finding.

Pelissero reported that the Falcons were not punished more seriously because the violations are considered administrative, such as making travel arrangements after the players had agreed to contract terms. The NFL also did not find evidence there was contact with the players or their representatives prior to the free-agency negotiating window opening.

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