When asked about the hottest topic in Indy at the Scouting Combine, Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli opted to say nothing about Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel was a bit more talkative.
“With a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he’s available. I’ll leave it at that,” Crennel said.
The next question is whether Crennel said enough to trigger tampering charges. Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star points out that, given the language of the relevant league rules, it could indeed happen. The real question is whether the Colts or the league want it to happen.
Some would say the Chiefs are in line for a little karma, given that the Chiefs claimed that the Lions were tampering with Chiefs players who have a connection to former Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. But the Colts may not be inclined to demand that action be taken.
Then again, last week’s report from a Kansas City radio station that the Chiefs already have spoken twice with agent Tom Condon about Manning could prompt the Colts to decide to take a stand now, especially if owner Jim Irsay truly holds out hope of negotiating a reduced contract for Manning. As long as he’s under contract with the Colts, only the Colts should be permitted to talk to Manning or his agent. Discussions with any other teams would undermine the Colts’ ability to get something done, and tampering charges against the Chiefs or any other team could scare every other team away.
Even if the Colts have, as Mike Silver believes, decided to move on from Manning, there’s a strategic component to be considered. With Crennel already providing enough evidence to prove a technical violation of the rules, and with the league typically fashioning tampering punishments that give the “victim” a bump in draft standing in one of the middle rounds, the Colts could choose to push the issue.
Of course, the league could decide to look into the situation even without a formal charge from the Colts. That’s what the league did three years ago in light of evidence that the Redskins possibly had pre-negotiated with Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth before the free-agency market opened. In that case, the league accepted the explanation that owner Daniel Snyder was having dinner with Haynesworth’s agent not to discuss Haynesworth but to talk about the agent’s only player on the Redskins roster at the time, receiver Malcolm Kelly. (They supposedly discussed that Kelly could be the next Andre Johnson. And it came true, to the extent that there’s a guy named “Andre Johnson” working at a Target store somewhere.)
Typically, the league isn’t inclined to even investigate tampering matters, absent obvious evidence. Even then, the league at times will pooh-pooh the presence of a hand in the cookie jar, saying something like “everyone knows Peyton Manning will be cut” or “Crennel was merely speaking in hypotheticals” or “anyone would be crazy not to consider Peyton Manning” or a similar remark that minimizes the situation.
If, in the end, the league takes action regarding Crennel’s comments, the ultimate irony will be that he said what he said in the city where multiple teams have been deliberately violating the tampering rules by directly negotiating with agents for players who remain under contract with other teams until March 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET.