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Uncovering the Truth: The Atlanta Falcons Tampering Scandal

The Falcons Tampering Scandal has been a storyline throughout the off-season, starting with Kirk Cousins admitting that the Falcons tampered in his opening press conference four months ago. 

Falcons Tampering Scandal: How It Started 

On March 14, Kirk Cousin stated, "Kyle [Pitts] was probably the first, if I can remember, back a few weeks, he was recruiting." in his introductory press conference. However, Cousins noted that his family was on a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, when Pitts attempted to recruit him. 

Then Cousins remarked later in that same press conference, "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 P.R. I'm thinking, we got good people here. And that's exciting to be a part of." 

 Here is the NFL's policy when it comes to tampering, "During this two-day period [where NFL clubs can contact unrestricted free agents nevertheless,], a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than his current club) at its permanent facility or 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)." (this quote is from a Fan Nation article regarding the NFL's policy).

Cousins revealed in his introductory press conference that Pitts had contacted him, which is a big issue because Pitts is considered an employee of the Atlanta Falcons. Cousin's comments warranted an investigation that started just before the 2024 NFL Draft. 

2024 NFL Draft 

As previously stated, the NFL launched an investigation into the Atlanta Falcons during the 2024 NFL Draft, which began on April 25, 2024. Atlanta had the eighth overall pick. Many fans, media members, etc.… expected that the Falcons would select a player at a position where they needed to fill holes on their roster.

However, new general manager Terry Fontenot and new head coach Raheem Morris had other plans about what the organization should do with their pick. The Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Michael Penix from Washington. This pick would be fine if Atlanta did not pay Kirk Cousins 180 million dollars for four years (a contract that included $50 million as a signing bonus and 90 million dollars guaranteed).

One reason the NFL community speculated the reason for the pick was that the NFL's punishment for the Falcons' tampering was expected to be significant (a potential Kirk Cousins suspension), and the organization wanted to have an on-the-roster QB if Kirk Cousins did get suspended for the first few games of the upcoming season. If you apply that reason, then the pick makes sense (even though Atlanta fans were livid).

Punishment Time 

Fast-forward to June 13, 2024. The NFL announced its findings and punishment from its investigation of the Atlanta Falcons organization. The franchise' was found guilty of tampering. However, they received a significantly lighter punishment than expected. The Falcons were only docked a fifth-round pick in the 2025 draft and a fine of $250,000. At the same time, the NFL was investigating the Philadelphia Eagles for allegedly tampering with Saquon Barkley. The Eagles franchise was acquitted of any wrongdoing and, therefore, not punished. As a fan of the Falcons' rival, the Carolina Panthers, I am appalled that the NFL slapped the Falcons on the wrist for tampering. 

The outcome of the NFL's investigation should have been that Atlanta should have been docked their first—and second-round picks from the 2025 and 2026 drafts. Or, an alternative outcome should have been that the league suspended Kirk Cousins and Kyle Pitts for the first few games of the upcoming NFL season (this is only partial sarcasm for the record).

The NFL found that the Atlanta Falcons tampered with not only Kirk Cousins but also their other free-agent signings. The punishment the league handed the Atlanta Falcons made the Michael Penix pick look somehow worse. For the Falcons, the pick would have made more sense if the punishment had been significant.

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