BREAKING: Falcons' Kirk Cousins Tampering Penalty Revealed by NFL

The Atlanta Falcons' punishment for tampering with former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency has been finalized by the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons have been punished for tampering with quarterback Kirk Cousins during free agency.
The Atlanta Falcons have been punished for tampering with quarterback Kirk Cousins during free agency. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After three months of speculation, the NFL announced tampering punishments against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.

Atlanta lost its 2025 fifth-round pick, while the organization was fined $250,000 and general manager Terry Fontenot endured a $50,000 fine for tampering with quarterback Kirk Cousins, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Woerner.

The Falcons violated the NFL's rules regarding logistical and administrative contact, such as making travel plans after deals were agreed upon. The league didn't find the Falcons made contact with players before the legal negotiating window opened.

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

Atlant issued its own release after the verdict.

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

The NFL's investigation into the Falcons’ tampering case arose after Cousins, who was speaking at his introductory press conference March 13 after signing his four-year, $180 million contract on the first official day of free agency, said he had contact with Atlanta’s head athletic trainer the day before.

From March 11-12, which served as the legal negotiating period, teams are allowed to speak with players’ agents, but there can be no formal contact between the player and team officials before 4 p.m. the day free agency begins, which was March 13 this year.

Cousins unintentionally admitted to breaking this rule. Now, the Falcons are facing the consequences - and are another poster child for the NFL in tampering conversations, a list that continues to grow.

In 2022, the Miami Dolphins were punished for tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton three times from 2019-22.

The NFL took Miami’s 2023 first-round pick 2024 third-round pick while issuing a $1.5 million fine to owner Stephen Ross and $500,000 fine to vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal.

The Kansas City Chiefs were found guilty of tampering with receiver Jeremy Maclin in 2015 and forfeited their 2016 third-round pick and 2017 sixth-round pick.

Kansas City was fined $250,000, while head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey were forced to pay $75,000 and $25,000, respectively.

The NFL investigated the Philadelphia Eagles for potentially tampering with running back Saquon Barkley this spring but found no evidence.

Since the middle of March, the Falcons appeared poised to be the next in line. Now, it's official - and they're left hoping the rest of Cousins's tenure sees more positives than his first night in Flowery Branch.


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Daniel Flick

DANIEL FLICK

Daniel Flick is an accredited NFL writer for Sports Illustrated's FanNation. Daniel has provided boots-on-ground coverage at the NFL Combine and from the Atlanta Falcons' headquarters, among other destinations, and contributed to the annual Lindy's Sports Magazine ahead of the 2023 offseason. Daniel is a co-host on the 404TheFalcon podcast and previously wrote for the Around the Block Network and Georgia Sports Hospitality Media.