We declared the tampering season open earlier today.
On cue, Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has dipped a toe into the tampering pool.
As Rosenthal pointed out, the former Chiefs defensive coordinator recently said, “[Kansas City] keeps wanting to dump their players. I would like to be there to catch a lot of them, because I know a couple of those guys.”
Though Cunningham mentioned no specific players, we believe that he has committed a textbook violation of the tampering rules by expressing general interest in multiple players under contract with another team.
If, for example, current Browns G.M. and former Eagles G.M. Tom Heckert were to say, “The Eagles will be dumping one of their quarterbacks and I would like to be there to catch one of them,” the Browns would quickly have one or more fewer draft picks come April 22. (Of course, Heckert has not said this. And no matter how many times we say that he didn’t say it there will be readers who believe that he did.)
As one league source explained it in response to Cunningham’s comments, agents for Chiefs players who are eligible for free agency or are being squeezed to take a pay cut will now use those words from Cunningham as leverage.
“We’ll just go to Detroit,” an agent might say. “Cunningham has said he wants some of his old guys.”
We’ll probably ask the league for comment on whether Cunningham’s comments will be reviewed. But we’ve chased enough of these tampering cases to accept the fact that an explanation will be offered that will keep the Lions from being declared public cheaters.
Our prediction? “Cunningham didn’t name any specific players, so it’s not a violation.”