The NFL whacked the Texans on Thursday for a fairly obvious salary-cap violation. The NFL also could smack Houston for a textbook breach of the tampering rules.
On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik acknowledged that the Texans are considering the possibility of signing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We have a process that we go through, Jimmy is obviously a part of that process,” Slowik said.
Every team tampers. Every single one. It usually doesn’t happen so blatantly.
And this is as blatant as it gets. Garoppolo remains under contract with the 49ers. Another team cannot publicly express interest in signing him.
The NFL is grossly inconsistent when it comes to enforcing the rules regarding tampering. In this case, it’s not a major violation; the 49ers clearly don’t want to re-sign Garoppolo, who is heading to the open market for the first time in his career.
Still, other teams that have been punished for tampering may be upset if the Texans get a pass. The Dolphins didn’t get a pass for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton last year; Miami lost a first-round pick. In 2016, the Chiefs lost a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick for speaking directly to Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin during the two-day window during which negotiation with agents are permitted.
“We appreciate the opportunity to make our appeal on this matter, and we acknowledge the minor reduction in fines imposed,” owner Clark Hunt said after an appeal upheld the draft-pick punishment but reduced the fine. “However, we continue to believe that the facts of this case combined with the league’s inconsistent enforcement of its tampering policies do not warrant the most severe penalty for player-related tampering in league history.”
If the NFL doesn’t punish the Texans for tampering with Garoppolo, Hunt’s point will be underscored. Even if tampering happens all the time (and it does), it rarely happens so clearly and obviously.