Falcons forfeit draft pick, fined for tampering; Eagles cleared

Falcons fined, penalized draft pick for tampering (1:11)

Adam Schefter reports on the Falcons being fined and losing a draft pick for making improper contact with multiple players, including Kirk Cousins. (1:11)

The Atlanta Falcons on Thursday were docked a fifth-round pick in the 2025 draft and fined $250,000 for violating the NFL's anti-tampering policy related to free agent signings, while the league cleared the Philadelphia Eagles of tampering while signing running back Saquon Barkley this offseason.

The tampering violations for the Falcons were a result of "improper contact" with three players prior to their official unrestricted free agency period: quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Woerner.

In addition to the team penalties, the NFL fined Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot $50,000.

After Cousins was signed to a four-year deal worth up to $180 million on the first official day of free agency, he indicated during his introductory news conference that he spoke with the Falcons' head trainer before 4 p.m. ET on March 13, when the new league year began.

Teams are allowed to speak only with agents during the 52-hour free agent negotiating window after the start of the new league year and cannot speak directly with players -- unless the player represents himself and doesn't have an agent. Cousins is represented by Mike McCartney, who had announced on social media two days prior to the start of the new league year that the quarterback had agreed to terms with the Falcons.

"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."

Mooney signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Atlanta, and Woerner got a three-year, $12 million contract.

"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."

The NFL did not discover sufficient evidence to support a finding that the anti-tampering policy was violated by the Eagles in the lead-up to signing Barkley.

Shortly after Barkley agreed to terms with the Eagles on a three-year, $37.75 million contract in March, his former coach at Penn State, James Franklin, suggested general manager Howie Roseman spoke to Barkley directly during the "legal tampering" period to sell him on playing for Philadelphia, which has a large Nittany Lions fan base.

The Eagles at the time denied having impermissible contact with Barkley, saying all recruiting done by the team is facilitated through the agent. Barkley said Franklin "misinterpreted" how the Eagles went about recruiting him.

"In coming to this conclusion, the league reviewed phone logs, text messages and other documents related to Philadelphia's free agency and decision to sign Barkley," the league said in a statement. "The NFL also interviewed several members of the organization, including Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni, as well as Barkley and Penn State head coach James Franklin. As with every review, should new evidence be uncovered, the league may reopen the investigation."