TAMPA — While Tom Brady was trying to lead the Bucs to a defense of their Super Bowl title, he was having secret discussions in December about becoming a minority owner and possibly the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins in 2022, according to findings in an investigation by the NFL.
Tuesday, the Dolphins were hit with sanctions by the league for tampering with Brady and former Saints head coach Sean Payton.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the violations by the Dolphins “unprecedented.”
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both the 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 Dolphins will lose their first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a third-round pick in 2024. Owner Stephen Ross was suspended until Oct. 17, banned from all league committees and fined $1.5 million.
In addition, Bruce Beal, the Dolphins’ vice chairman/limited partner and a friend of Brady’s, was fined $500,000 and may not attend any league meeting for the remainder of the year.
Beal is on the board of TB12, Brady’s health and fitness company with trainer Alex Guerrero.
Brady will face no penalty for the Dolphins tampering with him while he was under contract with the Patriots and Bucs.
The revelations came following a six-month investigation by the NFL led by former U.S. attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers.
Among the findings included two attempts by the Dolphins to tamper with Brady in hopes of convincing him to play quarterback for the Dolphins.
The first impermissible communications came in 2019-2020 while Brady was under contract with the Patriots. Those talks began in August and continued throughout the 2019 season and postseason.
The “numerous and detailed” discussions were conducted by Beal, who kept Ross and other Dolphins executives informed of his talks with Brady, the league said.
The Dolphins again had “impermissible communications with Brady and agent Don Yee during and after the 2021 season” while he was playing for the Bucs, according to the investigation. The league said they began no later than December 2021 and focused on Brady becoming a limited partner with the Dolphins and possibly a football executive but also included the possibility of him playing for the Dolphins. Both Ross and Beal participated in those discussions.
The Dolphins also had “impermissible” conversations with the agent for Payton last January about him becoming Miami’s head coach prior to resigning his position as Saints head coach after 15 seasons on Jan. 25.
Yee represents both Brady and Payton.
The Bucs had no comment on the Dolphins tampering with Brady. Yee declined comment when reached by the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday.
Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1, the same day that former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against his former team and two other NFL clubs alleging racism in their hiring practices.
In the lawsuit, Flores claimed Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss shortly after he was hired in 2019 to improve the Dolphins’ draft position.
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While the NFL found no evidence that the Dolphins intentionally lost games in 2019, it did discover Ross made comments to team executives that the draft position should take priority over winning games.
Brady is one of the most recognizable superstars in pro sports and naturally gets approached with a lot of opportunities. In addition to TB12, he owns an apparel line, “BRADY,” and a film production company, and is invested in the NFT world.
Brady has not addressed his interest in the Dolphins. He and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, paid $17 million for a plot of land on Biscayne Bay with views of the Miami skyline and are building an eco-friendly mansion there.
The Bucs owned Brady’s rights for 2022, so the Dolphins would have owed Tampa Bay compensation as part of a trade to acquire their quarterback.
Brady announced he was returning to the playing field and the Bucs on March 13, the eve of the start of the free agent negotiating period, saying he had “unfinished business.”
Brady declined to address reports about his interest in the Dolphins at the Bucs’ mandatory minicamp in June.
“I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people,” he said. “As I have for the last three or four years in my career about different opportunities when I’m done playing football.”
Instead, Brady talked about his recommitment to playing in the NFL and for the Bucs.
“For me, the most important thing is where I’m at now and what I hope to do for this team,” he said.
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