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Teams routinely ignore the rules regarding undrafted players

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly has explained that the league must constantly try to find ways to improve.

Here’s something for the suggestion box:  Get rid of rules that are regularly broken but rarely enforced.

There are several rules like this.  The paperwork says one thing, the teams routinely do something else, and the league office never does anything about it.

When it comes to negotiating with potentially undrafted players before the draft has ended, the rule is clear:  Teams can’t do it.  But they regularly do, and the NFL does nothing about it.

The Chargers did it last year, according to quarterback Chandler Harnish, whose verbal deal with San Diego was interrupted by the Colts making Harnish the last pick in the draft.

This year, receiver Russell Shepard has boasted that he “took [himself] off the draft board during the draft” after striking a deal with the Eagles in round six.

Shepard has since reiterated that the Eagles negotiated with him before the draft ended by pointing out via an unverified (but apparently legitimate) Twitter account that “[i]t was just a agreement calm down people didn’t become official till the next day actually.”

Under the rules, it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t “official” during the draft.  The land rush for free agents can’t begin until the draft ends.  In Shepard’s case, a verbal deal was in place with Philly during the sixth round.  At some point (and that point could already be now), teams will have agreements with undrafted players in place before the draft even begins.

While any team could have disrupted the agreement between the Eagles and Shepard by drafting the player, the violation comes from the fact that the Eagles got a head start on the process.  The reality is that most teams do.

It will continue until the NFL enforces the rule.  And if the NFL isn’t going to enforce the rule, then the NFL should just get rid of it.

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16 Responses to “Teams routinely ignore the rules regarding undrafted players”
  1. noeffinway says: May 1, 2013 7:44 AM

    come on, I thought everybody knew that these rules are only on the books so they can be enforced against certain teams, not all teams.

  2. mjposner says: May 1, 2013 7:59 AM

    Assuming this is true, what kind of idiot is Russell Shepard. He is trying to make a team as an undrafted free agent and he immediately outs the team exposing them to penalties. I would drag him through training camp, work his as off and cut him on the last cuts just out of spite.

  3. dallas88kj says: May 1, 2013 8:01 AM

    While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the ridiculous rule that if the number 1 overall pick has agreed terms with the team picking first, the team picking second can’t negotiate with anyone.

  4. slashrageblog says: May 1, 2013 8:05 AM

    What’s wrong with having a verbal agreement before the draft ends, a la Chandler Harnish? It’s not like teams don’t have a chance to get that player–there are seven rounds in the draft, plus round end comp picks.

  5. nolahxc says: May 1, 2013 8:19 AM

    As expected, a slap on the wrist. Clearly it’s ok because every team does it!

  6. skulman7 says: May 1, 2013 8:19 AM

    Teams routinely start calling players around the 6th or 7th round. Any team could have still drafted Sheppard and they would have had his rights, he can’t literally “take himself off the draft board”. I think it’s being blown out of proportion

  7. wheeln69 says: May 1, 2013 8:19 AM

    “The Eagles intentionally negotiated with a player prior to completion of the NFL Draft. This is in clear violation and they successfully tried to gain an unfair advantage”, he continued with “and they being an NFC East division rival, I have decided, uh, I mean the NFL Competition Committee has decided to penalize them heavily…next two year’s of first rouond picks”…”So what if he was going to be undrafted?…they play in my division…and I say so…they are lucky I am not reducing their cap figures for the next two years”

    Sincerely, John Mara of the New York Football Giants

  8. donstylo says: May 1, 2013 8:21 AM

    They can not enforce any rule as far as I’m concerned. As long as the NFL still makes sure people wear the right colored gloves during a game, however, I’ll continue to sleep soundly.

  9. tedmurph says: May 1, 2013 8:41 AM

    It’s against the rules, but it seems like a dumb rule. If a player is drafted he has to go there; if a player is an UFA, him and his agent can choose where to go from amongst the offers he gets. Who cares if he makes the decision early. If the player wants to wait until all offers are in, he can still do that too.

  10. marima07 says: May 1, 2013 9:08 AM

    Breaking the rules is perfectly okay as long as

    1. It’s not the Patriots, and
    2. They didn’t ignore an NFL memo.

  11. watermelon1 says: May 1, 2013 9:18 AM

    And… How do you enforce this? Illegal wire taps? Sounds like a great use of my tax money.

  12. realninerfan22 says: May 1, 2013 10:26 AM

    Mike floria get a life who cares. I swear you writers think you guys no more then the players and team official..

  13. nirvana504 says: May 1, 2013 10:45 AM

    Suspend everybody

  14. garyhd01 says: May 1, 2013 12:47 PM

    these writers are all better writers than I however their choices on articles is sometimes crazy just trying to stir the bucket Monday I think I saw a projection of every teams record the bears are going 10-5 according to the article oh and the 32 teams are going to win 7 games more than they lose which we all know isn’t possible however if you read this far you get my point we are just looking for interesting reading I know I prefer it to a romance novel

  15. surfinbird1 says: May 1, 2013 1:51 PM

    I bet the Patriots love hearing this crap. In that case,everybody cheats. Your team included.

  16. silvernblak says: May 1, 2013 2:37 PM

    How is this any different then Roger Goodhell breaking rules of football tradition on how the game is to played according to him, routinely does it, and nobody is doing anything about that?

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