The rules regarding discussions with players who may not be draft are pretty clear. Before and during the picks process, there can be contact and expressions of interest but no negotiations.
In a video of comments from Chandler Harnish a/k/a Mr. Irrelevant that has been posted on YouTube, the former Northern Illinois quarterback says that, as the draft was winding down, he was being pressured by the Chargers to commit to signing with them once the draft ended — and that Harnish’s plan to sign him as a free agent forced the Colts to use the last pick in the draft to get him.
“I was getting calls from like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, just a bunch of teams were — and I’m talking to my agent every three minutes,” Harnish explains. “It looked like we were about ready to set up a free agency deal. I was ready to go to San Diego . . . .
“They wanted the decision 10 minutes after they could put the deal on the table, and this was still at pick 240,” Harnish says. “So there were still 13 picks to go. And they put the deal on the table that they wanted me to be a free agent and I had to say ‘yes’ to it. . . . We tell San Diego we want that deal. Well, my agent tells the Colts, ‘Hey, he’s going to San Diego if you don’t draft him with your last pick.’ So because of that the Colts were like, ‘We want him. We want to take him before he goes to free agency, and then he goes to San Diego.’”
That’s as close to a team getting caught with its hand in the cookie jar as we’ll ever see, short of having the team admit to negotiating with a player before the draft ends. In this case, look for Harnish if/when asked about his words to backtrack and clarify and if necessary claim he misspoke. That’s usually how it goes when players admit that there were negotiations before the draft ended. For now, it’s pretty clear that’s what happened here.