Last year, the San Francisco 49ers received a knuckle-rapping from the league office based on communications with agent Drew Rosenhaus regarding a contract extension for linebacker Lance Briggs, at a time when the Bears and 49ers were engaged in trade discussions regarding the franchise player who was playing under a one-year contract that by rule couldn’t have been extended until after the season ended.
The Niners had every right to believe that they were screwed. Tampering runs rampant in the NFL, usually without consequence. By periodically busting one of the 32 teams for it, however, the league office can create the appearance that it cares about the pervasive problem of off-field cheating via franchises putting visions of signing bonuses in the heads of players not happy with their current contracts and, as a result, their current teams.
And now the Niners apparently are the victims of tampering.
Deion Sanders of NFL Network proclaimed during a Friday night on-air segment with Rich Eisen that two teams were interested in trading for the rights to 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree — and were willing to pay the holdout wideout a contract worth $40 million.
Specifically, Sanders said that the unnamed teams “will pay this kid, and he knows that.”
The 49ers responded, according to Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, with an unequivocal denial: “Those discussions never occurred.”
So if the 49ers didn’t talk with teams interested in trading for Crabtree, there’s only one way that Crabtree became aware of the situation: The teams talked directly to Crabtree or his agent about their willingness to trade for, and then to pay, Crabtree.
The problem is that neither the Niners nor the league know who the teams are.
But Deion does. And he’s an employee of the league.
So the approach here is simple. The 49ers should demand that Commissioner Roger Goodell demand that Deion spill his guts about the teams that supposedly were willing to do a trade-and-pay deal for Crabtree. If Deion declines, then Deion moves on to the pursuit of other interests.
The Niners also should express concern to the league regarding whether a business relationship exists between Sanders and Parker. Though there’s presently no evidence that they are anything other than agent and former client, the NFL should want to know whether Deion was merely expressing his views when he talked about the Crabtree situation on Total Access, or whether Deion was carrying water for Parker and, in turn, for Crabtree.
If it’s the latter, it’s a pretty good arrangement for Parker. He can continue to keep his head low and his mouth closed about the Crabtree negotiations, and Parker can rely upon others, like Deion, to get the word out.
Bottom line? The 49ers should be livid about this situation. If they’re not, then they need to get out of the football business and open a chain of flower shops, or something.