TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The NFL announced that it has punished the Miami Dolphins for tampering violations and other offense, according to a Tuesday release.
The release said a six-month NFL investigation involved actions committed from 2019 to 2022 which raised two concerns: whether the Dolphins attempted to tamper a player and a coach under contracted and whether they intentionally lost games to boost their position in the 2020 draft.
According to the NFL, the Dolphins violated its Anti-Tampering Policy three different times by having “impermissible communications” with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
The investigation found that the Miami Dolphins Vice Chairman Bruce Beal first had discussions with Brady in August 2019, while he was under contract with the New England Patriots, which continued into the 2019 post-season.
The NFL said these communications began again in December 2021 when Beal and Chairman Stephen Ross had talks with Brady about him joining the Dolphins as a limited partner football executive. The discussions included the possibility of Brady playing for the Dolphins as well.
The Dolphins also had discussions in January 2022 with Payton’s agent to have him coach them without the Saints’ consent.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”
As for the “tanking” allegations, the NFL said it did not find evidence of the Dolphins intentionally losing games in the 2019 season.
“The Dolphins competed hard to win every game, including at the end of the season when they beat Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the 2020 draft,” the NFL report said.
The NFL did say that Ross made statements in the 2019 season that the Dolphin’s 2020 draft positioning mattered more than the team’s wins, but after Head Coach Brian Flores voiced concerns over prioritizing the draft over his team’s victories, senior club executives responded by assuring him that they supported the team and did not want them to lose.
According to the report, Ross did make an offer of $100,000 to Flores so he would lose games, but this was determined to not be a serious offer.
“Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game,” Goodell said. “The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”
As a result of its investigation, the NFL has suspended the Dolphins from the first-round selection of the 2023 NFL draft pick and third-round selection in the 2024 draft.
Ross was fined $1.5 million and suspended through Oct. 17, forbidding him from being at the Dolphins facility and representing the club at any even. He can also not attend a League meeting before the annual meeting in 2023 and was removed from all NFL committees indefinitely.
Beal was also suspended from NFL meetings for the rest of the 2022 season and find $500,000.