When defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth signing a $100 million contract (as a practical matter, it’s worth $48 million over four years) only five hours into free agency, anyone with an ounce of common sense realized it was the culmination of wink-nod-cough-fart discussions between Haynesworth and the Redskins (or something less discreet) that began before midnight on the first day of the annual signing period.
It’s a common occurrence; the problem is so bad that the league is considering changing the rules regarding contact with pending free agents in order to officially permit discussions that routinely occur between agents for free agents and interested teams throughout February, culminating in a free-agent free-for-all at the Scouting Combine at the end of the month.
At to Haynesworth, the Titans regarded the tampering as sufficiently brazen to justify league intervention. Of course, the Titans never officially alleged tampering. Instead, they merely posed the question for the league to ponder. (Technically, the NFL may pursue tampering investigations without a team making a complaint.)
Though there was no clear smoking gun, the circumstantial evidence was strong. Haynesworth’s agent, Chad Speck, had dinner with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder at the Scouting Combine. Because Speck already represented one player on the team (receiver Malcolm Kelly), the meeting was attributed to matters relating to Kelly, whom the team and the agent believe can be the next Andre Johnson.
But Redskins running back Rock Cartwright later said during a radio interview that Speck had been talking to the Redskins about Haynesworth before the first day of free agent.
How did Cartwright know? Kelly was telling teammates that the talks had occurred.
Then there’s the reality that a nine-figure contact was negotiated from scratch in five hours, at a time when Speck was negotiating with multiple other teams, including the Buccaneers, who supposedly offered even more money than the Redskins.
Still, the league has found that the Redskins committed no tampering violations, according to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com.
It’s hardly a surprise. The league rarely nails anyone for tampering, even though it happens all the time. The problem is that the league apparently is unwilling to take action unless the evidence is clear, probably because the league isn’t comfortable acknowledging that teams rampantly cheat when it comes to players who are not yet free agents.
Even though most if not all of them do.