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NFL reaches decision on Falcons, Eagles tampering investigations

An Atlanta Falcons helmet

Dec 27, 2010; Houston, TX, USA; Atlanta Falcons helmet on the field before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has concluded its investigations into alleged tampering by the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, and one of the teams has been found guilty.

The Eagles, who were accused of tampering before they signed star running back Saquon Barkley, were cleared. The Falcons, however, were found to have violated the NFL’s anti-tampering policy before agreeing to deals with Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney and Charlie Woerner.

As a result, Atlanta will have to forfeit a 2025 fifth-round draft pick and pay a $250,000 fine. General manager Terry Fontenot has been fined $50,000.

The Eagles were accused of tampering after Penn State coach James Franklin indicated in an interview back in March that Barkley, who played for Franklin in college, spoke with Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman before teams were allowed to have direct contact with free agents. An Eagles spokesperson said any recruiting that was done by the team during the two-day legal tampering window would have been through an agent. The NFL did not find evidence indicating otherwise.

In Atlanta’s case, the tampering probe stemmed mostly from remarks Cousins made himself during the veteran quarterback’s introductory press conference with his new team. Cousins admitted that he had direct contact with members of the Falcons organization before it would have been permitted by NFL rules. The 35-year-old later tried to downplay any alleged violations, but the damage was done.

Even if it is common for teams to recruit free agents before the legal tampering window opens, there is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality that exists across the league. The Falcons probably would have been fine had Cousins been more careful about what he said.

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