The Cowboys reportedly tried to swing a trade for Jets safety Jamal Adams. We know this in part because the Cowboys published an article and posted a tweet acknowledging their interest.
The article itself says that the Cowboys “reportedly” had interest in Adams, but that’s a nuance not conveyed by the headline or the tweet. Ultimately, the headline and the tweet constitute an expression of interest by the web properties owned and operated by the Cowboys in a player who is under contract with the Jets through 2020, and 2021 if/when the Jets exercise their fifth-year option.
“Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media, is a violation of this Anti-Tampering Policy,” declares the NFL’s Anti-Tampering Policy. In this regard, the policy contains an important caveat: “Articles that appear on the website of a club that identify prospective free agents that the team might be interested in, or that rate prospective free agents, shall not be considered violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy unless they include a direct quote or expression of interest by an employee of the club (other than the author of the article) about a specific player.”
But Adams isn’t a prospective free agent. He won’t be a free agent until 2021 at the earliest or, if the option is exercised, 2022. That exception, which by its terms applies to offseason website articles identifying players that the team may target, has nothing to do with a player who is more than a year — and likely more than two years — from hitting the market.
So what will happen? Undoubtedly, nothing. The NFL has realized that, whether it’s the tampering policy or the injury reporting rules or anything else that teams routinely violate, aggressive enforcement inevitably would result in a stream of acknowledgements that the league is full of cheaters. And that wouldn’t be good for the league, or its oft-cheating teams.