The “everyone does it” defense may not keep the Eagles from being punished for negotiating with a potential undrafted free agent before the draft ended.
To that the Saints would say, “Welcome to the club.”
On Wednesday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com that the league is investigating receiver Russell Shepard’s claim that he reached an agreement to sign with the Eagles during the sixth round of the draft.
“Yes, we are looking into it to determine the facts,” Aiello said.
The facts seem to be clear. Shepard has said, both in a radio interview and on Twitter, that he agreed to join the Eagles before the draft ended. “I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard boasted, obviously not realizing that the rules prevent teams from trying to sign players who may not be drafted before the draft ends.
The Eagles have tiptoed around the question of whether negotiation occurred during the draft. The team denies that a verbal agreement was reached prematurely.
“Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles,” the team said in a statement issued to PFT on Wednesday. “However, we did come to terms on a contract with he and his agent after the draft was completed. We anticipate he, like all of the rookie free agents we have agreed to terms with, will take a physical examination upon arriving in Philadelphia prior to next week’s rookie mini-camp and then sign a contract.”
For the Eagles, the question becomes whether the NFL will accept Shepard’s inevitable claim that he was joking or misinformed or simply bragging when he said what he said. For Shepard, the question becomes whether the Eagles decide to yank their offer to Shepard if he doesn’t successfully clean up this mess.