The NFL sent out a strong message Wednesday: Don't break the league's anti-tampering policy. And to send that message, they dropped the hammer on the Kansas City Chiefs.

The league announced that the Chiefs have been docked two draft picks and fined a total of $350,000 for breaking the NFL's tampering policy during negotiations with free agent Jeremy Maclin in 2015.

The punishment means the Chiefs will forfeit a third-round pick in the 2016 draft and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft. The $350,000 in fines will be split between coach Andy Reid ($75,000), general manager John Dorsey ($25,000) and the franchise itself ($250,000).

Every NFL team knew that a punishment was possible for breaking the tampering policy. The league even sent out a memo in March 2015 that confirmed it was investigating several possible cases of tampering.

During the legal tampering window, teams are allowed to negotiate with agents, but they can't make official offers or reach a contract agreement with any free agents.

The legal tampering window started on March 7 last year; however, players weren't allowed to sign with anyone until March 10. Apparently, that's where the Chiefs messed up, because the Maclin deal was first reported on March 8, with the contract numbers coming out on March 9.

NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent explained why the Chiefs' punishment was so big.

"The goal is to balance the seriousness of the violation of an important and longstanding competitive rule [the Anti-Tampering Policy], with appropriate recognition of the club's history [no prior offenses], and the cooperation shown by both the club and individual employees," Vincent said in a statement. "The discipline should be sufficient both to deter future violations and encourage cooperation in future investigations."

As you can imagine, Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt wasn't happy with the punishment. In a statement, the 51-year-old ripped the NFL's decision.

"While we respect Commissioner Goodell and the process, we believe that the penalties proposed in this case are inconsistent with discipline enforced in similar matters -- particularly given the league's inconsistent communication of its policies on contact with potential free agents," Hunt said.

To put the Chiefs' punishment in perspective, the Patriots lost two picks (a first-rounder in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017) and were fined $1 million for Deflategate.

Hunt also said that the Chiefs plan to appeal the decision.

"I want to make it clear that I fully support the leadership of both Coach Reid and John Dorsey," Hunt said. "We will continue to explore our options under the appeal process."

Andy Reid and the Chiefs just got hammered by the NFL. (USATSI)
Andy Reid and the Chiefs just got hammered by the NFL. (USATSI)