The NFL has cracked down on the Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross for tampering with Tom Brady while he was still under contract to the Patriots and Buccaneers, and for tampering with Sean Payton while he was still under contract to the Saints. And that has some asking: Will Brady and Payton also face league discipline?
They will not. When NFL teams tamper with employees under contract to other teams, the NFL only punishes the party that does the tampering, not the employee who goes along with the tampering.
With coaches like Payton, the NFL could, and arguably should, change that rule easily: The league could institute a rule that if a team attempts to tamper with a coach who’s under contract with another team, that coach must immediately shut down all communication and report it to the league office or else the coach is subject to discipline as well. But at the moment, the NFL’s rules don’t punish the coaches on the receiving end of tampering communications.
For players like Brady, any policy that penalizes them for tampering would have to be negotiated through the NFL Players Association, and the NFLPA would surely object on the theory that if the league doesn’t like tampering, it’s incumbent upon the league to keep its owners in line.
So unless and until the rules change, coaches and players are free to talk to owners of other teams, even knowing that the owners are breaking the rules.