NFL Finds “Unprecedented” Tampering Violations by Dolphins in Quest for Brady

Miami is losing multiple draft picks and owner Stephen Ross is suspended through October and owes the league $1.5 million

Tom Brady looks on under center against the Miami Dolphins in 2021
Tom Brady and the Miami Dolphins would have made strange bedfellows.
Julio Aguilar/Getty

Following a six-month investigation led by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers into what the Miami Dolphins were up to from 2019-2022, the NFL has docked the team first- and third-round draft picks, suspended team owner Stephen Ross until mid-October and fined him $1.5 million.

Looking into allegations of tanking and tampering, White and her team found the team innocent of the former and guilty of the latter for improperly engaging in conversations with Tom Brady while he was a member of the New England Patriots in 2019 and again in 2021 when Brady was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The investigators also determined the Dolphins tampered with Sean Payton while he was still coaching the Saints by reaching out to his agent Don Yee (who also represents Brady).

For those who have been paying attention, it’s been a fairly open secret that Miami had designs on bringing in Brady to play quarterback and Payton to coach him. But a number of factors and developments derailed the team’s plan, so the Dolphins instead had to settle for Mike McDaniel on the sidelines and Tua Tagovailoa at QB. The Dolphins, who have made the postseason just twice in the past two decades and haven’t won a playoff game since before Brady took over as the starter in New England, spent parts of three years illegally attempting to get No. 12 to come to Miami and failed miserably. Now, to add injury to insult, the team is paying the price with draft picks and Ross is paying the price with his wallet. (Miami vice chairman Bruce Beal was also fined $500,000.)

“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “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.”

The timing of the announcement, as well as the discipline handed down to Ross, is worth noting given the Deshaun Watson discipline that was handed down yesterday. (Notice how that story is no longer leading NFL news?)

In a statement, Ross pounded his chest about the league finding no evidence of tanking and accepted his likely well-deserved punishment.

Former Miami coach Brian Flores (mentioned above), who originally made the tanking allegations against Ross and the team and also gave some indication that tampering was in play, also released a statement about the league’s findings.

Speaking with ESPN in June about the prospect of being recruited to join the Dolphins in a front-office capacity and/or as a quarterback, Brady was his typical vague self. “I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, I’ve had for the last three or four years of my career, about different opportunities when I’m done playing football, so, I kind of made a decision of what I’d like to do, and I’ll get to be in the game of football,” he said.

It’ll be interesting to see what he says now because the questions are going to be coming fast and furious, especially next week.

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