The Miami Dolphins have been stripped of two draft picks by the NFL and their owner has been fined and suspended. The Dolphins and their owner are alleged to have had an “impermissible contact” with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and the agent of ex-Saints coach Sean Payton.

US Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White led the anti-tampering investigation and found that the Dolphins breached anti-tampering rules three times. Mary Jo White and lawyers also found that in 2019, Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, asked his team to prioritize draft position over their performances on the field and winning games.  

Stephen Ross has been suspended for six games through October 17, 2022, and fined $1.5 million. The Dolphins will be stripped of their 2023 first-round pick and their third-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Tried to Convince Brady to Play for the Dolphins

In a statement on the Dolphins’ Twitter account, Stephen Ross said that he strongly disagreed with the conclusions and punishment. The Dolphins owner did, however, accept the results of the investigation so that there were no distractions for the team as they were getting ready for “an exciting and winning season.”

Mary Jo White and the lawyers who investigated the Dolphins found that the Miami team had “impermissible” contacts with Brady on two occasions – during the 2019 season while he was still with the New England Patriots and in 2021 when he was contracted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

That second impermissible communication was focused on convincing Brady to become a Dolphins limited partner or even serve as an executive. According to the NFL release, the star quarterback was also offered the chance to play for the Dolphins

Bruce Beal, the Dolphins Vice Chairman, who was alleged to have communicated with Brady, was fined $500,000 by the league.

The Dolphins also communicated with the agent of former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton in January 2022. As with Brady, the league said that the Dolphins shouldn’t have contacted the now retired coach as that was a clear case of tampering.

In a statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that investigators found tampering breaches “of unprecedented scope and severity.” The league commissioner wasn’t aware of any prior instance where a team tampered with not just a star player but also a head coach and where the ownership of the team was so clearly and directly involved.

Owner Prioritized Draft Position

In addition to tampering, the Dolphins were also investigated for tanking – intentionally losing games to improve their position in the NFL Draft. In 2019, the Dolphins won only five games and got the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as a result.

Even though the investigation found that the team didn’t lose games on purpose and that nobody instructed coach Brian Flores to lose intentionally, it established that Ross prioritized the Dolphins’ draft position over their position on the table.

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