The Miami Dolphins will be docked two draft picks as part of the NFL’s investigation into player tampering and tanking as alleged by former Dolphins head coach and current Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores.
Miami will forfeit its 2023 first-round draft pick and 2024 third-round draft pick. Additionally, owner Stephen Ross will be suspended from all league and team events through Oct. 17, 2022, removed from all league committees and fined $1.5 million and vice chairman Bruce Beal will be suspended from league meetings throughout the 2022 season and fined $500,000.
The NFL investigation into the Dolphins came as a result of the class-action lawsuit filed by Flores against the team and the league that alleged, among other things, racial imbalance in the hiring practices and treatment toward minority coaches and coaching candidates.
Flores alleged that at the end of the 2019 season, Ross pressured Flores to recruit a veteran quarterback still under contract to another team, in violation of league rules, and even went as far as to arrange a seemingly impromptu meeting between the two, which Flores refused to take part in. The Palm Beach Post reported that the quarterback was departing New England Patriots star Tom Brady, who ended up in Tampa Bay, winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers.
The NFL found that the Dolphins twice had multiple impermissible contacts with Brady, from 2019-21, and also with the agent of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a press release. “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 NFL was not able to conclude that the Dolphins intentionally lost games in 2019, but did reveal that Ross told Flores that he prioritized draft position over winning, a statement that could be construed to be a request to lose games. Flores’ allegation that Ross offered him $100,000 per loss to improve their draft position was not able to be confirmed by the league.
Though the purpose of the lawsuit was to highlight the racially-biased mistreatment of minority coaches, the tampering and tanking allegations were presented as a rebuttal to the Dolphins’ stated reason for firing Flores of poor collaboration between the coach and ownership.
Flores’ suit remains unresolved and has been expanded to include the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, with two other former NFL coaches joining he suit.
Flores said in June that he is focused on his job with the Steelers right now and is letting his legal team handle things with regards to his ongoing lawsuit.
“I try to live in the moment and not think about things that have happened in the past or really look too far into the future,” he said during minicamp. “I’m just excited about being here because in Pittsburgh, working with these players, these coaches and being in this organization.”
The Dolphins and Ross did not make any public statements regarding the punishment before press time.
The Steelers are scheduled to visit the Dolphins on Oct. 23 this season.