Potential Tampering Allegations Could Shake Up 2024 NFL Draft

When Kirk Cousins was introduced as the newest member of the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback made a remark that turned some heads inside and outside the league.

Could that remark lead to a finding of tampering, and potentially shake up the entire 2024 NFL Draft?

That scenario is on the table as NFL Draft Week begins, according to multiple reports.

Let’s start by going back to Cousins’ introductory press conference, held on Wednesday, March 13. That was the same day that the NFL’s League Year officially began, following two days of the league’s “tampering period.” During the league’s tampering period, teams cannot make contact directly with players, only their agents.

However, Cousins had this to say that Wednesday evening.

“Kyle [Pitts] was probably the first, if I can remember, back a few weeks, he was recruiting,” Cousins said at the press conference. “It’s always fun to be wanted and so I appreciated that and he did a great job kind of leading the charge.”

The quarterback then added that the Atlanta tight end texted him something to the effect of “[w]e’re ready for you to take us to the promised land.”

That was not the only comment that NFL minds noticed. Cousins also said this that Wednesday evening: “You look around and you think, ‘Boy, there’s great people here,’” Cousins said. “And it’s not just the football team. I mean, I’m looking at the support staff. Meeting – calling, yesterday, calling our head athletic trainer, talking to our head of PRI’m thinking, ‘We got good people here.’” (Emphasis added)

A lovely gesture from Pitts, and a nice comment from Cousins to be sure, but ones that could land the Falcons in some hot water, and reshape the 2024 NFL Draft.

Under the NFL’s rules involving tampering“[n]o club, nor any person employed by or otherwise affiliated with a clubis permitted to tamper with a player who is under contract to or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by another club.” (Emphasis added).

Furthermore, regarding the tampering period:

Two-Day Negotiating Period. Notwithstanding the foregoing, during the period that begins two calendar days prior to the expiration of NFL Player Contracts (the “Two-Day Negotiating Period”), clubs are permitted to contact the certified agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the current League Year and enter into contract negotiations with them. A contract, however, cannot be executed with a new club, or submitted to the League office, until after the beginning of the new League Year. During this two-day period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than his current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than his current club).

(Emphasis in original)

As many have pointed out, Cousins having direct contact with Pitts and a member of Atlanta’s staff ahead of the official start of the league year seems to run afoul of the league’s tampering rules.

As reported the following day by ESPN and other outlets, league sources indicated they were looking into the allegations against the Falcons, and another team.

The Philadelphia Eagles.

The allegations surrounding Barkley’s decision to sign with the Eagles stem from comments made by James Franklin, the head coach at Penn State and Barkley’s college coach. Speaking about Barkley’s move, Franklin had this to say:

“For him now to come back and be able to play within the state, in Philadelphia, he said that was one of the first things that Howie [Roseman] said to him on the phone as part of his sales pitch to him was not only the Philadelphia Eagles and that but obviously the connection with Penn State and the fan base as well.”

The comments seem to imply that Eagles GM Howie Roseman had direct contact with the running back ahead of the league year beginning, which again would be a violation of the NFL’s anti-tampering rules.

Barkley and the Eagles have denied any wrongdoing, and the running back believes his former coach simply misinterpreted the situation and all communication was done through his representatives, which is permitted under league rules. “Coach Franklin, I think he misinterpreted it,” Barkley said back in March. “The truth was to sell basically Penn State. So many Penn State fans are Philadelphia Eagles fans, but that was through my agent. My agent told me that.”

Returning to the Falcons, both head coach Raheem Morris and owner Arthur Blank believe the organization did everything by the book. “I’m not allowed to really discuss it right now while it’s under review, but I got a lot of confidence in our people that we did the right thing,” Morris said at the NFL’s annual meeting.

“The tampering deal, we obviously don’t believe we tampered, and we shared all the information with the league,” Blank said at the NFL’s annual meeting. “And they’ll review the process and the facts and they are in the middle of doing that, and whatever the result is, we’ll deal with it.”

New reporting on Monday indicates that decisions are expected shortly, and that the NFL’s penalty is expected to be “more severe” for the Falcons. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter had this to say in his Monday ESPN+ column: “The NFL’s investigation into alleged tampering charges against the Falcons for their involvement with then-free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Eagles for their involvement with then-free-agent running back Saquon Barkley is ongoing and could reach a conclusion as early as this week, per sources. Sources believe the discipline, which is likely to involve draft picks, is expected to be more severe for the Falcons.”

Schefter then noted some recent examples of the league imposing penalties for tampering, such as the Miami Dolphins forfeiting a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton. Fines were also handed down for owner Stephen Ross and vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal.

Previously, the Kansas City Chiefs were forced to forfeit a third-round pick in 2016 and a sixth-round pick in 2017 for tampering with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Fines were also handed down for the team, as well as head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey.

There is even a more recent example, that could provide additional precedent for the league. Ahead of last year’s draft, the Cardinals were hit with tampering charges associated with their hire of Jonathan Gannon as their new head coach. It surfaced that Gannon, while still employed by the Philadelphia Eagles, had contact with Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort. “It’s a mistake that we made, and the league rectified it and we’ve moved on,” Gannon said, via the team website.

The punishment? The Eagles and the Cardinals swapped picks in the third round, as part of a settlement resolving the investigation. Arizona also received Philadelphia’s fifth-round pick in the 2024 pick. The third-round swap saw the Eagles jump up 28 spots in the third round from pick No. 94 to pick No. 66.

Here’s where a similar penalty could rock the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Falcons currently hold the No. 8 selection, while the Vikings — who now need a quarterback with Cousins having signed with Atlanta — sit at No. 11. Minnesota has long been linked with a potential trade up in the first round to draft a quarterback, but the price to come up from No. 11 is rather steep.

But if they were suddenly given pick No. 8, it becomes a little easier to make such a trade.

That swap was suggested by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talkand while it might seem a harsh penalty at first glance, if the league is truly about to hand down a “severe” penalty for Atlanta, that might be the result. Especially when you factor in the fact that the Falcons are alleged to have tampered with a quarterback, and the Vikings now need to replace that player on their roster.

Until such a penalty is handed down, these are all reports, rumors, and scenarios. As noted above the Falcons maintain they did nothing wrong in their pursuit of Cousins.

However, if such a penalty is handed down, that could rock the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

And perhaps the NFL for seasons to come.

2024-04-22 14:36:10
#Falcons #Eagles #tampering #penalties #coming #cost #major #NFL #Draft #picks

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