Even without the Scouting Combine, tampering is still happening

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The NFL has canceled the Scouting Combine, which doubles as Tampering Central in advance of every free-agency period. Teams brazenly meet in Indianapolis with agents representing players who are due to become free agents.

No one even tries to be discreet about it. While in Indianapolis, agents openly say they’re meeting with this team or that team about the impending free agents they represent. Team officials openly acknowledge the meetings, too.

Without the benefit of gathering everyone in Indianapolis at the same time, the tampering communications are still happening.

As one agent explained it to PFT, the calls started last week, they’re continuing this week, and by next week it likely will be rampant. For many agents, it’s easy to cover tracks; if an agent represents one of more players on a given team, the agent easily can talk to that team about an impending free agent with another team. If/when questions get asked about the purpose of the call that shows up on a log somewhere, the team and agent need only say that they were talking about one or more clients currently on the roster.

In 2009, Washington avoided a tampering finding regarding defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth because his agent, Chad Speck, represented then-Washington receiver Malcolm Kelly. Washington persuaded the powers-that-be that Speck had dinner with Washington owner Daniel Snyder at the Combine not to discuss signing Haynesworth but to discuss the possibility that Kelly will become the next Andre Johnson. (Spoiler: He didn’t.)

For agents who don’t represent a player on a given team’s roster, there are other ways to skin the cat. Coaches and executives routinely contact agents to get information or advice. That can be the stated reason for the call. In fact, some teams already are opening the discussions with a topic unrelated to the free agent who is currently under contract with another team. Then, the conversation pivots to that player.

Of course, any team that will be tampering with a free agent by talking to his agent on the phone will need to trust that agents to not intentionally or accidentally screw the pooch. Some agents may be inclined to use those communications against a given team at some point down the line. Teams try to figure out which agents will or won’t potentially use the willingness to engage in tampering calls against them.

Some agents think it’s foolish for teams to even worry. Although phone logs will show the calls made and received to agents, the chances of it ever getting to that point are slim. Still, the league’s random and arbitrary enforcement of the tampering rules justify concerns that, even though every team is tampering, any one team can be the wrong-place-wrong-time franchise that gets whacked.

16 responses to “Even without the Scouting Combine, tampering is still happening

  1. Show me a very rich person who says he came across his money honestly and I’ll so you a liar and cheater.

  2. If the NFL had more transparency, we’d know why they decided to take a draft pick from the Chiefs, while only fining the Jets for recent tampering penalties. Fines are meaningless to NFL teams, only picks and suspensions matter. The Jets lost first round picks for tampering with Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin while Taglibue was commissioner.

    When there have been lawsuits against the NFL in the last 10 years,(Bountygate, Bullygate, Spygate) it was shown that the information the NFL told the public was not accurate.

    I do not believe that the NFL handles discipline fairly and equitably.

  3. Bigger question is “Why would this be considered tampering in the first place?” Guys are becoming free agents meaning they’re obviously looking for work. There aren’t any games taking place right now so there’s no conflict of interest where the guy could be trying to sabotage his current employer to endear himself to his next team. The NBA has the exact same problem where their rules make no logical sense so everybody effectively just ignores them.

  4. It’s only tampering if ya get caught. And I feel like the NFL looks the other way pretty hard…..

  5. Nothing wrong with job hunting for a new gig while still at your old job. We’ve all done it.

  6. so many classic comments in this article. Begs the question, why is there a “no tampering” period?

  7. Begs the question, why is there a “no tampering” period?

    It’s to stop every team from stealing the players from other teams before official free agency. It’s to allow every team to have the same shot at every available player.

  8. It’s a joke and a way that the league can punish and reward who they want. I remember as a Lions fan 2 scenarios that baffled my mind…
    1. 2010 or 11 we were docked a 7th and had to swap 5ths because Gunther Cunningham (former KC coach) said to the media “they tend to let a lot of their good players leave, we’d love to have some of those guys” a statement that is a common sense vague reply! Boom tampering.

    2. This is a quite pulled from bleacher that sums up the second one, “ Suh was signed to a record-breaking six-year, $114 million contract on March 11. However, ESPN reported three days earlier that a deal — for the same length and value”… dolphins found to not be tampering… a specific player, exact figure reported, to a star player… wow!

  9. If the NFL decide to penalise a club for alleged tampering, the penalty should be set in stone. Eg a pre determined high round pick. That way, everyone knows the consequences and everyone is fined the same. I’m amazed that’s not in place.

  10. “…the league’s random and arbitrary enforcement of the tampering rules…”

    Just place this sentence in every story about the NFL.

    The League’s preference for certain teams, and dislike for other teams, leads to a different application of all of the rules.

  11. It will ONLY EVER become an issue if the Patriots can somehow be MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT tied to a situation that would involve STEALING another 1st round pick….To the NFL office, any other team will not matter nor would another fan base care even if it was a blatant violation…..

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