Atlanta Falcons are setting themselves up for a hefty fine

Teams who negotiate with high-profile unrestricted free agents prior to the legal-tampering window opening occasionally get fined which is the path the Atlanta Falcons are taking.

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Super Bowl LVIII - Previews / Candice Ward/GettyImages

The NFL has rules in place to protect teams from having their under-contract players from being poached by other teams. One of the rules surrounds 'tampering' where teams are not allowed to negotiate contracts before the 'legal-tampering period' kicks off two days before the new league year.

The Atlanta Falcons have been rumored to be interested in one of the league's top free agents, Kirk Cousins. Recent reports point toward a violation of league rules which could put the Falcons in a prime position to be fined.

Atlanta Falcons could end up being fined for early pursuit of Kirk Cousins

Tampering happens every year in the NFL and more often than not, the NFL overlooks it. There are way too many teams and players to monitor to keep the rules upheld 100%. What this means is that the league keeps an eye on the top free agents because, after all, those are the violations that make the biggest impact.

The decision for top free agent QB Kirk Cousins seems to be down to the team that is allowed to negotiate with him, the Minnesota Vikings, and the team that isn't allowed to negotiate with him, the Atlanta Falcons.

Sunday brought some rumors that Cousins would make his decision by the day's end which begs the question, how does he know that the Falcons are willing to match or exceed the Vikings' offer?

That is a rhetorical question because we all know the answer.

Right now, Cousins is being pressed into a decision due to the void years after the expiration of his contract. The Vikings restructured his contract in the past which means they are still on the hook for cap hits in coming years even if he doesn't return.

Cousins' decision has been rumored to be 50/50 which also means the contract offers are similar. One would guess that the Falcons' offer would have to be higher to pull him away from his home.

There are ways for teams to legally tell impending free agents that they will have interest in them once negotiating windows open up. This happens through the agent, oftentimes at the scouting combine.

What isn't allowed is contract negotiations and if you read between the lines, that has to have happened between Cousins and the Falcons. This wouldn't be a worry if Cousins was a middle-of-the-pack free agent, but since he is the top free agent at the top position, the Falcons might have made a mistake. The NFL is going to target them if they are looking to hand out punishments.

We also have to wonder whether or not it might be worth violating the rules. If you can land the free agent because you negotiated early and he goes on to be everything you hoped for, then the reward will likely outweigh the punishment.


But there is another issue, we have seen the NFL hand out some heavy punishments—particularly when relating to Tom Brady, Sean Payton, and the Dolphins. Granted, those were huge violations since they happened years before.

This is something worth monitoring in the coming months. We could see the Atlanta Falcons get punished for jumping the gun when pursuing Kirk Cousins.

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