The floodgates of reporting regarding tentative free-agency deals opened when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that the Dolphins have a deal to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. With the NFL now vowing to investigate any teams that made offers or struck deals while being permitted only to negotiate (which necessarily results in making offers and/or striking deals), the Dolphins become the most obvious starting point.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins are “nervous” about the situation.
The practical problem for the Dolphins isn’t that a deal was struck; it’s that the news was leaked. And the report wasn’t couched as “could be” or “may be” but as a definite — Suh will sign with the Dolphins.
The leak either came from the Dolphins or from Suh. On that point, Salguero notes that the Dolphins have been on “lockdown” for a week, and that Suh and Mortensen are both represented by CAA.
When Ted Wells (kidding, sort of) returns to South Florida and begins poking around, however, the nature of the leak won’t matter. What will matter is whether offers were made and/or an agreement was reached between Suh and the Dolphins at a time when only negotiations were permitted.
And as long as the NFL permits negotiations and prohibits the natural consequences of negotiations, the problem will continue. And even though everyone is doing it, the league’s modus operandi in situations like this is to catch one team, impose a significant punishment, ignore that everyone else is doing it, and hope the others are scared straight.