NFL penalizes Falcons for tampering; Eagles cleared

ByABC News
June 13, 2024, 11:19 AM

The Atlanta Falcons on Thursday were been docked a fifth-round pick in the 2025 draft and fined for violating the NFL's anti-tampering policy related to free agent signings, while the league cleared the Philadelphia Eagles of tampering with their signing of running back Saquon Barkley this offseason.

The tampering violations are related to the Falcons having "improper contact" with prospective unrestricted free agents Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney, and Charlie Woerner during the two-day negotiating period prior to the start of the 2024 league year.

The Falcons officially signed Cousins to a four-year deal worth up to $180 million on the first day of official free agency, two days after his agent, Mike McCartney, announced on social media that Cousins and Atlanta had agreed to terms.

"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 NFL said in a statement. "This includes discussion of travel arrangements or other logistical matters, which the club acknowledges took place with regard to these three players."

During Cousins' opening news conference, he indicated he had spoken with the team's head trainer before 4 p.m. on March 13, when the new league year was set to open.

In addition to forfeiting its fifth-round pick, the Falcons were also docked $250,000 while general manager Terry Fontenot was fined $50,000.

"We are pleased this review is complete," the Falcons said in a statement. "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."

Barkley, a Penn State alum and Pennsylvania native, agreed to terms with the Eagles on a three-year, $37.75 million contract this offseason that includes $26 million fully guaranteed at signing. The signing, however, came under scrutiny after James Franklin, who was Barkley's coach at Penn State, suggested Eagles general manager Howie Roseman spoke to Barkley directly during the "legal tampering" period, which is not allowed.

The NFL on Thursday said it interviewed Roseman, Franklin, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and Barkley as part of its investigation.

"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 league said in a statement.