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    NFL Was Right To Handle Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins Tampering Situations Differently

    Compared to the harsh punishment the NFL levied against the Miami Dolphins for tampering, the Atlanta Falcons seemed to catch a break. But context is important.

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    Miami Dolphins fans were once again aggrieved Thursday when the NFL assessed a far laxer punishment to the Atlanta Falcons for tampering than they did the Dolphins two years prior.

    The league determined the Falcons this offseason had impermissible communication with Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney, and Charlie Woerner during this year’s negotiating window, NFL Media reports.

    Was NFL’s Miami Dolphins Tampering Punishment Too Harsh?

    Accordingly, the NFL stripped the Falcons of their 2025 fifth-round pick and assessed fines ($250,000 to the organization and $50,000 to GM Terry Fontenot).

    At first blush, that punishment seems like a slap on the wrist compared to the two-by-four to the face the NFL delivered to the Dolphins back in 2022.

    The league took away the Dolphins’ 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 fourth-round selection, and suspended Stephen Ross for two months after determining the club and its owner had improper contact with quarterback Tom Brady and the agent for coach Sean Payton over the course of two-plus seasons.

    So what gives? Did the league intentionally go overboard in their sanctions of the Dolphins, tacitly punishing them for offenses they couldn’t prove (namely, that previous coach Brian Flores was instructed to lose games during the team’s tank year)?

    Certainly, a cynic could make that argument.

    But a closer look at the facts suggests that the league rightly takes nuance into consideration when it comes to punitive action.

    The Falcons, per NFL Media, were indeed found to have broken the league’s rules on who is allowed to talk to whom during the negotiating window. They crossed the line.

    But, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero’s sources, “the violations are considered logistical/administrative, such as making travel arrangements after players agreed to terms, and did not involve contact prior to the negotiating window.”

    That’s far different — and less serious — than what the NFL determined the Dolphins did.

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    As a reminder, the league found that the Dolphins twice tried to lure Brady to Miami while he was under contract with another team — not during the legal tampering period and not with those other teams’ consent.

    (Ross even went so far as to set up an in-person meeting between Flores and Brady on a private yacht in the winter of 2020, weeks before Brady’s contract with the New England Patriots was set to expire.)

    The Dolphins pulled a similar, but not quite as brazen, stunt with Payton’s agent when they were searching for Flores’ replacement in early 2022.

    “The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in August 2022 when he handed down his punishment.

    “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”

    The Falcons, meanwhile, did none of these things (or if they did, the league couldn’t prove it). Which is why the NFL was right to go far easier on the Falcons than they did the Dolphins.

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