NFL teams make a mockery of tampering rules

Free Agency's Impact on NFL Draft

College Contributor Network

The 2014 NFL season provided Roger Goodell with a myriad of reasons to be embarrassed. He oversaw a league that was rocked by a seemingly endless list of scandals that included domestic violence, child abuse, and (the less serious but still relevant) ball deflation. It seemed that outside-of-game highlights, every story the NFL found itself in brought negative press and warranted criticism upon the shield.

The nightmarish season caused Commissioner Goodell to feel the wrath of the public, as his approval from the court of public opinion continued to plummet. He seemed completely incapable of grasping just how much damage the image of the league was taking -- working deliberately, but completely oblivious to the sensitivity of time and making arbitrary decisions that seemed baseless with regard to facts. However bad things got for Goodell this season, the last three days may just be what does his tenure in.

Back in March of 2013 the league office issued an official memo to teams, reminding front office personnel about the legality of certain actions during the league's "Tampering Window". Courtesy of's Albert Breer:

TO: General Managers
Head Coaches
Player Personnel Directors
FROM: Commissioner Goodell
DATE: March 8, 2013

SUBJECT: Impermissible Activity During the Three-day Negotiating Period for Unrestricted Free Agents

Clubs were advised in PP-26-13 that during the three-day negotiating period for prospective Unrestricted Free Agents, they are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12, and that no contract can be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12.

Clubs are further advised that prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year. Any announcement of an agreement or an agreement in principle by a club or another party, including, but not limited to, a certified agent, player, or media organization may subject the club to a tampering investigation.

Please contact the Player Personnel department if you have any questions

So to quickly summarize, any agreement of any kind between a pending unrestricted free agent and a team is expressly forbidden. So essentially everything you have watched on ESPN and heard on sports radio leading up to March 10, the new league year, is evidence of tampering.

It appears that the fear of Roger Goodell and his absolute disciplinary powers has completely evaporated, leaving teams to run wild before free agency even begins. This is, to borrow a term from the equally incompetent NCAA infractions committee, a clear example of "lack of institutional control". At this point, according to Pro Football Talk, twelve of the top eighteen free-agents have already agreed to deals before the new league year.

In response to the recent activities, the league issued another memo on March 9 stating it will look into all accusations of tampering from this period. 32 separate investigations? Seems like 2015 is off to a rousing start for the Commish.

Liam Bevans is a graduate student at Boston College. He has spent the last six years working for the BC football team both as a student and as an intern. Follow him on twitter: @L_Bevans
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