What will tampering punishment look like for the Atlanta Falcons?

The NFL is reportedly close to handing out punishment for the Atlanta Falcons' tampering violations. What could the punishment look like?
Super Bowl Winning Team Head Coach and MVP Press Conference
Super Bowl Winning Team Head Coach and MVP Press Conference / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages

The Atlanta Falcons screwed up. And I don't mean they screwed up by contacting their new franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins before it was legal, I mean they screwed up by making it so obvious. They should have coached Cousins as to what he couldn't say during his introductory press conference.

Every team tampers at some point or another and the Falcons were no different. They needed to ensure that they would land a franchise quarterback so they did what they had to do. However, they made it way too obvious and that could cost them when building for their future.

Adam Schefter reported that punishment could be handed down this week for the Falcons (and the Eagles who tampered to get Saquon Barkley in their building). I detailed the news yesterday and now we are going to dive in deeper and see what the punishment could look like.

History gives us an idea as to how the Atlanta Falcons will be punished

The Atlanta Falcons are not the first team to tamper. It has always been a huge issue and it even forced the league to open a "legal tampering period" right before free agency.

We have seen two major punishments in the past for violating these rules: the Chiefs and Jeremy Maclin in 2015 and the Dolphins contacting Sean Payton and Tom Brady a few years ago.

The Chiefs signed Jeremy Maclin for $55 million but were docked a third-rounder in 2016 and a sixth-rounder in 2017 for contacting him too early. The Dolphins lost their first-rounder in last year's draft and a third-rounder in this year's draft. Both teams also had staff who had to pay fines

Both of these situations are different than Atlanta's. The Chiefs were signing a receiver to a deal worth a whole lot less than Cousins' $180 million while the Dolphins tampered with a player and coach whom they never landed.

And tell me it's not a coincidence that the NFL announced the Dolphins' punishment a little over two weeks after Sean Payton was traded to the Broncos and Tom Brady retired from the NFL. The NFL knew the Dolphins would never see the benefits of tampering with the coach and player yet they still took away two premium picks—you have to believe it would have been worse if either guy would have landed in Miami.

This doesn't make the Falcons' situation look good. They tampered with 2024's biggest free agent at the most important position in sports. Oh, and by the way, the Vikings were trying to re-sign, meaning the Falcons likely intruded on their talks.

Keep in mind, Adam Schefter said the punishment will include draft picks, so you can expect to see the league follow the same guidelines as the last two major incidents.

The NFL is going to make an example out of the Atlanta Falcons

This is the topic that could lead to things getting ugly for the Atlanta Falcons; the NFL is going to make an example out of the Falcons.

As I touched on yesterday, the NFL knows tampering is going on and they know they cannot stop it fully—doing so would require 24/7 supervision of thousands of people. What they can do is stop the most blatant and most high-profile cases and I would say that is the case here.

Handing out a punishment that involves, let's say, the loss of a fourth-round pick and a few fines would not fix anything. They are trying to stop future teams from breaking these rules, not put them in a situation where they weigh whether the potential reward of tampering is worth the punishment.

What do I mean by that? Well, let's look to next year when Dak Prescott could find himself on the open market. Do you think a team wouldn't be willing to give up a fourth-round pick if it means getting an early start in trying to recruit a potential franchise-changing player to their team? These teams know that even if they decide to take the high road, other teams likely won't which gives those teams a major advantage in signing the player.

The Falcons didn't violate these rules just because they couldn't wait to hear Cousins' voice, they did it to be a Sooner.

While I don't believe (or at least hope) the NFL sees taking away the eighth-overall pick as an option, I can certainly see them taking away a second-round pick. I could also see them taking away next year's first-rounder.

The NFL has followed the standard of not taking away numerous picks in one draft. With the Dolphins and Chiefs, they took away a pick in two different drafts—expect the same for the Falcons.

There is also the avenue of swapping picks with the Vikings (similar to what the Eagles and Cardinals did last year with the Jonathan Gannon situation). The Vikings would see significant value in trading up three spots since they are trying to trade up for a quarterback. For the Falcons, this resolution wouldn't hurt them too much since they are targeting their defense in an offensive-heavy draft. However, would this route deter future teams from violating the rules?

While I hope more than anything that they lose a fourth-round pick and nothing else, that isn't the reality. Expect to see significant punishment this week for the Falcons. At the very least, expect the worst, and hope for the best.