NFL's potential Falcons tampering discipline could give Bears critical NFL draft gift


NFL’s potential Falcons tampering discipline could give Bears critical NFL draft gift originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The NFL has been investigating the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons for potentially tampering with Kirk Cousins and Saquon Barkley, respectively, before the official opening of free agency.

On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that a decision on the discipline for both teams could come as early as this week. Schefter noted, citing sources, that the punishment for the Falcons is “expected to be more severe.”

If the NFL does levy tampering discipline this week ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft, it could give the Bears a critical bump in the first round. The Bears own two first-round picks, with the second coming one pick after the Falcons at No. 8.

The NFL has previously levied tampering penalties against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins. In 2015, the league docked the Chiefs a 2016 third-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick for tampering with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The league also took the Dolphins’ 2023 first-round pick for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton on several occasions.

The brazenness of the Dolphins’ tampering forced the league to levy such a harsh penalty against the Dolphins.

While it’s unlikely the league would strip Atlanta of its first-round pick, the NFL could bump the Falcons down from No. 8 to No. 32. That would effectively give the Falcons a 21-pick penalty for tampering with a top-tier quarterback, or at least doing a poor job of concealing their tampering, to hinder teams from doing it in the future.

If such a penalty is imposed, the Bears would move up one spot and be in prime position to secure one of the top three receivers in the class or left tackle Joe Alt.

Four quarterbacks — Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, and J.J. McCarthy — are expected to go in the top eight. At No. 9, the Bears must hope that at least one team out of the Cardinals, Chargers, Titans, Giants, and Falcons takes a defensive player to ensure Rome Odunze, Malik Nabers, or Alt falls into their lap.

If the NFL moves the Falcons back in the first round due to the Cousins tampering charge, the Bears will have a sweat-free first round that will include Williams and either one of the three elite receivers or a franchise left tackle in Alt.

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