Chicago Bears Could Benefit from Ongoing NFL Investigation into Free Agency Tampering

Chicago Bears, Kirk Cousins
Chicago Bears, Kirk Cousins / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 new league year is off to a hot start, with several teams, the Chicago Bears included, acting aggressively to add starting caliber talent to their roster. However, many teams and players seem to have negotiated contracts before the start of free agency, something the NFL has already begun to investigate.

Specifically, the league is looking into the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, who were swift in signing Kirk Cousins and Saquon Barkley, respectively. In the former's case, the team signed the quarterback to an impressive 4 year, $180 million deal just minutes after the start of the free agency window. Cousins and Falcons' brass had communications while the veteran was still employed by the Minnesota Vikings, and while this might seem like standard practice for a veteran-free agent, it could lead to drama in Atlanta.

In his introductory press conference, Cousins seemed to unknowingly admit to this tampering, even if by implication alone. Cousins detailed communications with tight end Kyle Pitts, who had been trying to pry the quarterback to Atlanta. "If I can remember, back a few weeks, [Pitts] was recruiting me ... it's always fun to be wanted and so I appreciated that and he did a great job kind of leading the charge" Cousins stated in his Wednesday night press conference. Cousins also described communications with team officials, including the athletic trainer, that took place on Tuesday, a day before his official union with the team.

Similarly, the Eagles are facing investigations for the signing of Barkley, who allegedly had communications with general manager Howie Roseman prior to the start of free agency. The team has denied such contact.

How Could This Investigation Benefit the Chicago Bears?

Realistically, neither Cousins' nor Barkley's free agencies may be that far from the norm, but the league has come down on free agency tampering in recent years, and the franchises could be forced to surrender top draft compensation come April.

Just last season, the Miami Dolphins were forced to forfeit their first-round selection after a league report found that the team had impermissible contact with Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton. However, the Dolphins' tampering occurred during the 2019-20 season, and it was only three drafts later that the team was punished. They were forced to surrender their 21st overall selection in 2023 as well as a third-round selection in the 2024 draft. Team owner Stephen Ross was also levied with a $1.5 million fine.

Considering that the Falcons and Eagles are not involved in a multi-year tampering investigation, it seems unlikely that they will face this level of punishment. Still, potential punishments could serve to benefit the Chicago Bears, especially as it pertains to the Falcons.

Atlanta currently possesses the eighth overall selection in April's draft, just one spot ahead of Chicago. If the Falcons were to surrender their pick, the Bears would assume the eighth overall selection and would be one step closer to acquiring a top prospect. Aside from the quarterback position, the Falcons and Bears are rumored to have a lot of overlapping positional interest in the draft in terms of targeting wide receivers or edge rushers in the first round, so it could be a huge break for the Bears to move up for free.

As of right now, it seems unrealistic to expect this kind of punishment, but the league has made it known over recent seasons that they are trying to tighten their grip on potential tampering, and the Falcons and Eagles could serve as an example for the NFL.

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