No Big Deal: Falcons Officially Tampered with Former Bear

Analysis: The Bears will get no compensation but the ruling by the NFL regarding Kirk Cousins means tampering did technically occur with Darnell Mooney.
Greg Newsome II celebrates after Darnell Mooney dropped a tipped Hail Mary pass in the end zone from Justin Fields last season.
Greg Newsome II celebrates after Darnell Mooney dropped a tipped Hail Mary pass in the end zone from Justin Fields last season. / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
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There is no satisfaction for the victim, if the Bears can indeed be classified as victims.

They're pretty much in the same situation as the Minnesota Vikings, who got nothing in return as compensation when the NFL announced the penalty of a fifth-round draft pick forfeiture and $300,000 in assorted fines for the Falcons in the Kirk Cousins recruiting scandle.

The Vikings probably deserved the fifth-round pick taken away from Atlanta by the league in this situation, one that actually put the Bears in a victim's role of sorts.

According to the Atlanta Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter, the league ruled Cousins had indicated at his introductory press conference he met with the Falcons' training staff and public relations staff prior to officially signing in free agency.

Cousins also talked with former Bears GM Ryan Pace, a Falcons executive, and at the time helped recruit Darnell Mooney from the Bears. That is against NFL rules, as well. Former 49ers tight end Charlie Woerner was also brought aboard in similar circumstances.

"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."

Once the Bears received compensation from the 49ers for tampering with linebacker Lance Briggs—they were given the 49ers' seventh pick of the draft while giving the 49ers their 12th pick in return—but this case with Mooney apparently was considered a minor issue.

It's possible part of the reason there is no big outcry about the Bears and Mooney was they were not going to bring him back to Chicago anyway, at least not for the $39 million deal over three years like the Falcons gave him. According to a report by Brad Biggs of the Tribune, the Bears offered Mooney $10 million a year for three years prior to 2024 free agency and he declined it

So while the Falcons tampered, the Bears drafted Rome Odunze and traded for Keenan Allen after Mooney left, anyway. No problem.

According to Daniel Flick of OnSi's Falcon Report, Mooney is all through with the Bears chapter of his life. Mooney and Justin Fields had been inseparable as Bears but the wide receiver has quickly become good friends in Atlanta with Cousins.


"Everything's a learning curve in life," Mooney said, according to Flick. "So, just a learning experience. Obviously there was change, and I don't really try to worry about the past. I worry about what's now, and my goal every year is just to dominate."

A year ago it was running back David Montgomery taking a not-so-subtle shot at the Bears after signing with Detroit by saying on the St. Brown Brothers' podcast that he was sick of losing in Chicago. Then he lost in Chicago with Detroit on Dec. 10, 28-13.

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Now Mooney has been a little more direct about it.

"I'm always locked in," Mooney said, according to the website. "I've been losing for a while, so ain't no stepping back for me. I'm ready to take everything."

So Mooney signed with the Falcons, who lost 37-17 to the Bears last season when he was unavailable to play for Chicago due to injury.

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.