With Tom Brady officially on board, Bucs throw dirt on tampering trail

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The article purports to take the reader behind the scenes of the Buccaneers’ pursuit of Tom Brady. Its true purpose seems to be avoiding any potential accusation that the Buccaneers tampered with Brady.

The item from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times opens with this line: “It was last Wednesday evening, the first day of the new league year, when the Bucs called Tom Brady.” The next few paragraphs delve into the details of the call, creating the impression that this was the first time G.M. Jason Licht or coach Bruce Arians spoke to Brady about playing for the Buccaneers.

There’s a very good reason for this approach. Even though the rules permitted teams to speak to agents as of Monday at 12:00 p.m. ET, the rules prohibited a team from speaking directly to the player until 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. By recounting a conversation that happened, per Stroud, on “Wednesday evening,” the Buccaneers weren’t even close to the line. But consider this: Wouldn’t Licht and Arians have gotten Brady on the phone at 4:01 p.m. ET on Wednesday, if they had never spoken to him about playing in Tampa?

The facts and circumstances suggest that the story told to Stroud about the Wednesday evening phone call was less about providing insight into how the deal actually went down and more about throwing dirt on a trail that easily could lead to a tampering investigation.

By Wednesday evening, Brady already had picked the Bucs. Brady picked Tampa Bay on Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, we explained why he picked the Bucs over the Chargers.

By Wednesday evening, the question wasn’t whether Brady would pick the Bucs but why hadn’t the transaction been announced? As of 9:46 p.m. ET on Wednesday evening, for example, Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that the two sides “were still trying to finalize contract language.” Which would make no sense if Brady didn’t even make his decision until Wednesday evening.

So the notion that Licht and Arians spoke to Brady for the first time on Wednesday evening seems off, to say the least. The deal was as a practical matter done well before then, during the window when the team were allowed to talk only to Brady’s agent and not to Brady directly.

Which makes the story feel like an effort to keep anyone from now suggesting that the Buccaneers spoke to Brady before 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Common sense suggests that those commutations occurred.

At the Scouting Combine, for example, Arians didn’t hesitate to tell reporters that he’d be calling Brady, weeks before the rules permitted Arians to make any public remarks regarding his interest in Brady. If Arians was willing to dance on the wrong side of the line then, it’s fair to wonder whether he danced on the wrong side of the line later.

Then there’s the reality that the Patriots did nothing to suggest that they were taking notes regarding potential words and actions that cross the line. Instead, the Patriots seemed to be willing to let Brady do whatever he had to do to explore his options, even if those things happened before they were technically allowed to happen. As a practical matter, New England’s nonchalance created an atmosphere in which teams would have been even less worried about committing a tampering violation as to Brady.

Throw in the real-word COVID-19 confusion of the past couple of weeks, the vague sense that Brady’s GOAT status creates a de facto tampering dispensation, the reality that no one was going to tell the GOAT “no” if he wanted to talk prematurely, and the league’s general lack of interest in enforcing a policy that routinely is violated in one way or another by every team (primarily through Combine-week meetings with agents of impending free agents), and it becomes very easy to envision Arians adapting his on-field “no risk-it, no biscuit” mantra to the effort to land Brady, throwing caution to the wind and ignoring rules that rarely are enforced in order to secure the services of a quarterback who could let Arians walk off into the sunset with a silver trophy in one hand and a glass of something brown and potent in the other.

Now that they’ve landed Brady, it’s important to ensure that the league won’t decide to start poking around regarding potential irregularities, from communications with agent Don Yee before Monday at noon ET to communications with Brady before Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. And the NFL’s anti-tampering policy allows the league to pursue a tampering case even if the Patriots don’t file tampering charges.

When, for example, the NFL stripped the Chiefs of a third-round pick in 2016 and a sixth-round pick in 2017 (and imposed $285,000 in fines) for speaking directly to former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin during the 2015 negotiating window, the league initiated the investigation on its own.

The Buccaneers have even more reason to be concerned about what the league may do as to the pursuit of Brady. Consider this portion of the policy, regarding willful violations: “In any case in which a preponderance of the evidence establishes that it is more likely than not that a club deliberately set out to violate the Anti-Tampering Policy, or made a calculated decision to risk the possible penalties for such violation as an acceptable cost of acquiring a player or non-player club employee (i.e., as a ‘cost of doing business’), or attempted to conceal evidence of the offense whether before, during, or after its commission, the club and any involved person will be subject to appropriate discipline under such aggravating circumstances.”

No risk-it. No biscuit. The Bucs got their biscuit, and the effort to craft a narrative that they didn’t speak directly to Brady until more than a day after he decided to sign a contract to become a Buccaneer seems to reflect their best effort to engage in after-the-fact risk-it management.

46 responses to “With Tom Brady officially on board, Bucs throw dirt on tampering trail

  1. There will be no investigation. There’s so much anxiety about how this League year will play out, and so many contingencies to plan for, the NFL isn’t about to investigate something that goes on with every single team in the League, year after year.

  2. Whats it matter, he wasnt coming back to NE. And both the Pats and Brady knew it, so if NE doesnt care, why should anybody?

  3. Excellent analysis but I doubt New England will file tampering charges because then knew it was over a week ago.

  4. If we lost 2 picks and a quarter of a million for Jeremy Maclin then tampering with Brady should cost a couple of firsts.

  5. When the Bucs go 12-4 with Brady, there will be a new downtrodden, knuckle dragging contingent who will be forced to claim cheating accomplished it in order for them to move forward with their lives. Of course, it will be as wrong, sad, and silly just as it was the first time. The human condition can be perplexing sometimes.

    Tampa Bay is about to witness misguided excuse-making like they’ve never seen it before. Welcome to the party everybody.

  6. Yes, but if say the Pats had tried talking early to say Brees, Rivers or whoever, the salty mountain of hate, media, the league and Fraudger would all be crying crazy and penalizing it like the crime of the century.

  7. The only way any tampering investigation would get started is from the (ahem) league. Brady has a very strong relationship with the Krafts and obviously had their blessing to seek his path. The situation was unique and so long as it wasn’t in division the Pats probably could have cared less about anyone tampering. That said, the ‘league’ often does seem to look into things that benefit lapdog Fraudger’s favorites even when it’s at the expense of an influential owner, think Mara as former and Jones as latter or the absolute silliness of deflategate.

    Given that the Bucs are a division rival might Dancin’ Artie Blank put a word in to his boy Fraudger that this deserves a look? The Glazers have been loyal rubber stamps for Fraudger but he’s bitten a hand that feeds him before when other hands demanded it. All owners are equal in the eyes of 345 Park Ave, some are just more equal than others.

    As a one-off the GOAT as the FA involved and an acquiescent Kraft family should make any TB tampering bulletproof but this league has done much dumber things with no legit leg to stand on and usually for reasons making even less sense.

  8. Give the Tom Brady thing a rest.

    He’s 43 years old and his expiration date has come and gone,

  9. Belichick and Kraft had multiple chances to retain Brady. They didn’t, and now we will see exactly how successful both Brady and Belichick will be without each other.

    $25 million per year guaranteed for two years, and $9 million more in incentives for arguably the greatest QB of all time is a steal.

    TB should be a very good team. If they get themselves a stud rookie RB to pair with Jones, they could be a dangerous team. Arians is a great HC, and that Tampa D is very stout. They will be fun to watch (l hope football will be played) come September.

    It is hard to look beyond today at this point, but it is a nice distraction to think about watching football and getting back to a more “normal” routine.

  10. There are bigger fish to fry, frankly. I can appreciate the legalities in the rules, tampering, etc, but the bottom line is it’s clear Brady wanted out of NE, the Bucs needed a QB, others had a chance at him, and he’s a Buc.

  11. Before last season even started Tom asked to have his contract redone so that it was a 1 year deal, and he asked for a guarantee from the organization that there would be no franchise tag, because he wanted OUT of New England, and Bob Kraft gave him exactly what he asked for. That’s it end of story. There’s nothing to investigate Brady was done giving the team a hometown discount, because he was done with the team not going all in with that discount to improve the weapons around him, and who could blame him. He put his house up for sale, and resigned from his charity for a REASON FOLKS. He knew he wasn’t going back to New England under any circumstances. Not even if they had matched Tampa’s offer (which they surely wouldn’t have) would he have gone back he WAS ALL DONE. Good luck Tom here’s hoping you have 1 more Superbowl left in you!!

  12. Yeah and Brady and the Pats knew he was leaving weeks ago. No one cares about possible tampering right now.

  13. Stupid rule, that doesn’t get enforced anyways.

    Agents exist to talk to, and talk to others… that’s why you pay them.

    The only time it’s relevant is with coaches. You don’t want distractions in the post season…

  14. Kraft and the Pats just put a full-page article in the local Tampa Bay Times thanking Brady and telling Tampa to take good care of him. No inquiring is being instigated by NE.

  15. Goodell was hired partially to find ways to weaken NE for parity, and this is the ultimate, 15 years later.

    There will be no investigation of any kind. Goodell wants NE weakened as much as possible.

  16. The league is too busy with its continued Spygate 2.0 investigation to be able to add more to its detective agency

  17. jsrdc says:
    TB should be a very good team.
    I also think Tampa has a chance to be a contender.
    Statistically,.. TB was a decent team already. 3rd best offense and 15th on defense.
    Tampa Bay lost a lot of games by 7 pts or less. Can I assume some of those mind busting interceptions Winston threw made a difference in the outcomes of those games.
    He threw 30 picks in 2019. 1 pick every 20 passes. That's unforgivable.

  18. John jensen says:
    March 22, 2020 at 9:47 am
    If we lost 2 picks and a quarter of a million for Jeremy Maclin then tampering with Brady should cost a couple of firsts.
    The legal tampering window started on March 7 of 2015; however, players weren’t allowed to sign with anyone until March 10. Apparently, that’s where the Chiefs messed up, because the Maclin deal was first reported on March 8, with the contract numbers coming out on March 9.
    – smart

  19. You often hear of teams telling a player that they are allowed to seek out trades, Cam Newton being a recent example. Those cases of contact aren’t pursued as tampering, so there has to be some consideration of whether the owning team views itself as a victim, even if the NFL can pursue things independently. With Kraft saying Dommy earned the right to look around, you can’t think that NE is going to file a complaint.

  20. Tom Brady and dirt – I am shocked beyond shock!! Re the biscuit metaphor – kinda makes Patrick Mahomes the filet mignon.

  21. TB had the advantage of being a trap game every week, and they still stunk. Brady will retire before the trading deadline, after they have been mathematically eliminated

  22. With Kraft saying Dommy earned the right to look around, you can’t think that NE is going to file a complaint.

    The won’t but the league could look into it on their own if they wanted to.

    Don’t see the point. Sounds like NE wanted to move on from Tampa Bay Tommy a while ago.

  23. seanismorriscom says:
    March 22, 2020 at 11:41 am
    Stupid rule, that doesn’t get enforced anyways.

    Having a rule against tampering is far from stupid although it might seem that way when in fact it is absolutely necessary. For example look at the nonsense AB pulled to shotgun his way out of Pittsburgh, now envision he he engaged in that foolishness knowing ahead of time he had an agreement in place with the Raiders who wanted him and were willing to hand him the keys to the money truck. When you get done with that scenario you can move on to how badly every team being able to do that with any player would collectively poison the 32 individual NFL wells.

    The rules against tampering exist because the league would disintegrate without them. The preposterous way those rules get enforced on the other hand, that’s stupid is as stupid does without a doubt

  24. No playoffs for Tampa. Brady cannot put up 27+ a game, which is requirement for Tampa to win a game.

  25. Wasn’t there a rumor that Brady sent out a letter to the Bucs and Chargers (maybe more), about what he wss looking for in a team and salary numbers?

  26. Brady sent out two contract demands to LA and Tampa…sounds like he reached out….

  27. It was already reported in Tampa that Brady had been in town and met with a few big names in the Tampa community for dinner including Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning so the could pitch the benefits of coming to The Bucs.

  28. Probably something to this, but also probably something that everyone does. I think the rule is viewed as “Don’t get CAUGHT tampering.”

  29. Honestly, this is going to be fun to observe. As a Pats fan, it was getting kind of stressful just waiting for Brady to fall off the cliff. Now he can do that elsewhere.

  30. They will not call it tampering. That would help the Pats…and the league doesn’t want to do that.

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