The Atlanta Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft on Thursday for violating the NFL’s anti-tampering rules prior to signing quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Charlie Woerner in free agency in March.

The NFL also fined the team $250,000, while General Manager Terry Fontenot has been fined $50,000.

The Falcons and Cousins agreed on a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed shortly after the league’s 52-hour legal tampering window opened on March 11. Woerner agreed on a $12 million, three-year deal later that day and Mooney agreed on a $39 million, three-year deal a day later.

The league didn’t penalize the Philadelphia Eagles for having impermissible contact with running back Saquon Barkley, saying its investigation “did not discover sufficient evidence to support a finding that the anti-tampering policy was violated.”

It’s normal for teams and players to reach agreements quickly and there were other players who agreed to deals even before Cousins. But Cousins’ comments at his introductory news conference raised questions that led to the NFL’s investigation.

Cousins, who is returning from a torn right Achilles tendon that ended his 2023 season after eight games, indicated he spoke to the team’s medical staff before they were permitted to have contact.


“There’s great people here,” Cousins said. “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 PR. I’m thinking, we got good people here. And that’s exciting to be a part of.”

Teams are allowed to talk directly with agents – but not the players – during that two-day negotiation period unless the player represents himself.

JAGUARS: Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville agreed Thursday to a five-year, $275 million contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in NFL history, according to a person familiar with negotiations.

Lawrence’s deal includes $142 million fully guaranteed and a $37.5 million signing bonus, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side had announced the contract publicly. Lawrence will get an average of $55 million annually during the deal, tying him with Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow for the most in NFL history.

JETS: Mike Williams was absent from OTAs and mandatory minicamp this spring, but the 29-year-old receiver has been working hard to recover from an ACL tear he suffered during the third game of last season, when he played for the Chargers.

Williams is optimistic he will be ready to contribute in Week 1 when the Jets open against the 49ers on Monday Night Football.


“For the season, for sure,” Williams said on Wednesday. “That’s my goal, to be able to you know go out there, play this season and give it my all. Give this team a chance to win the big thing.”

Williams signed a one-year contract with the Jets in March, potentially worth up to $15 million with incentives. After being selected seventh overall in 2017, Williams spent his first seven seasons with the Chargers.

• The Jets signed defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley on Thursday after he had a tryout with the team during its two-day minicamp.

McKinley was the 26th overall pick by Atlanta in 2017 and has 20 career sacks, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2022.

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