The NFL has created an impractical system for acknowledging the rampant illegal tampering that happens prior to the launch of free agency. The rules currently permit legal tampering via a three-day window for negotiations that cannot operate like actual negotiations, which necessarily entail the making of offers and the chance that the repeated exchange of offers will result in a consensus.
The league office doesn’t like the fact that multiple tentative deals were reached and reported over the weekend, which undermined the plan to showcase the signing frenzy via a major push from NFL-owned TV and Internet properties. So the league is investigating specific teams (even though every team undoubtedly violated the goofy look-but-don’t-stare rules), and penalties could be imposed.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports that it’s possible, but not likely, that the league will void any deals that were struck during the three-day window. Hopefully, voiding deals isn’t likely because the powers-that-be realize that would be idiotic.
What happens if the NFL scuttles the record-breaking contract signed by Ndamukong Suh with the Dolphins, wiping clean his $60 million in fully-guaranteed compensation because the deal was finalized over the weekend? Would the Dolphins be barred from signing him? Or would they just do the deal again?
If it’s the former, the NFLPA justifiably would blow a gasket. If it’s the latter — and if Suh gets a penny less — the NFLPA would justifiably blow a gasket.
It’s oddly logical that the NFL would consider an illogical remedy for the illogical permission of negotiation and prohibition of offers, but the consequence needs to fit the crime. Exceeding the scope of the permitted negotiation period amounts to tampering. Teams found guilty of tampering face fines and the loss of draft picks.
A true, complete, and fair investigation would find that most if not all teams exceeded the limits of the three-day window, and thus engaged in illegal tampering. In lieu of casting a wide net, however, look for the NFL to find a sacrificial lamb that can be caught red handed and made to be an example for the other teams that will consider themselves lucky that they didn’t get caught, and that ideally won’t do it again for fear of being the unlucky one the next time around.