Mike Vrabel downplays tampering concerns after chat with Tom Brady: 'Friendships aren't going to stop'

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has a simple reason for his video chat with Tom Brady: The two are good friends.

Video of that conversation — which also included Julian Edelman — went viral, prompting many to speculate that Vrabel was trying to recruit Brady to the Titans. As Vrabel explained, he’s known Brady since 2001, and that their friendship isn’t going to stop because Vrabel is a head coach and Brady is still playing.

The problem with Mike Vrabel’s phone call with Tom Brady

That may be true, but there are still reasons to be suspicious about the call. The biggest issue is Vrabel’s last sentence, in which he acknowledged Brady will be a free agent. If Vrabel and Brady discussed Brady’s upcoming free agency at all during that call, Vrabel could be punished for tampering. While it’s assumed Brady will hear pitches from other teams this offseason, he’s not officially a free agent until March 18. Brady is technically still a member of the New England Patriots until that date.

Would the Patriots actually pursue tampering charges against Mike Vrabel?

Because of that, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might have something to say about Vrabel’s phone call with Brady. While no one can prove what was said on that call, the fact it happened in the first place raises suspicion. It doesn’t help that the Titans are currently without a quarterback, as both Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill are set to be free agents. The Titans will almost certainly attempt to recruit Brady once he hits the market. If Belichick suspects Vrabel was trying to circumvent the rules, you can’t put it past Belichick to push for tampering charges. If the situation was reversed and Belichick was caught having a conversation with a soon-to-be free agent, NFL fans would be up in arms about it.

What will happen if NFL proves Mike Vrabel was tampering?

Ultimately, the NFL can’t do much to stop Brady from signing with the Titans if that’s where he wants to go. Even in a scenario where Vrabel was tampering, the NFL would likely fine the Titans and potentially dock them a few draft picks. That’s what the league did to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016, when it was determined the Chiefs tampered with Jeremy Maclin. The Titans would pay a price, in that scenario, but they would still get Brady.

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Mike Vrabel and Tom Brady together
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with Head Coach Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans before the game during week two of the preseason at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel before a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Brady and Vrabel were teammates when Vrabel played for the Patriots. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel greets New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) before an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel talks with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during a combined NFL football training camp Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Vrabel and Brady were teammates when Vrabel played for the Patriots. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
New England Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady (12) watches from the sidelines after being replaced by Matt Cassel in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins during a football game in Miami Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006. The Dolphins won, 21-0. At left is New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel (50). (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
New England Patriots' Mike Vrabel, right, celebrates with Tom Ashworth, center, and Tom Brady after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first quarter in NFL football action Monday, Dec. 26, 2005, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 29: New England Patriots' (top row, l. to r.) Mike Vrabel, Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, (bottom row, l. to r.) Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel pose for a photo at the University of Phoenix Stadium during Media Day, leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl XLII. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 01: Mike Vrabel #50 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrate after a touchdown reception by Vrabel against the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game on October 1, 2007 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 30: Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and head coach bill Belichick watch the replay from the sidelines of the Patriots first TD in the first half to put them up 10-7. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spots teammate Mike Vrabel in the end zone for a touchdown reception during the fourth quarter. New England Patriots face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX on Feb. 1, 2004. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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What will happen next with Mike Vrabel and Tom Brady’s phone call?

The NFL hasn’t announced an investigation, and the Patriots and Belichick haven’t publicly complained, so it’s possible this is the last we’ve heard about Vrabel’s phone call with Brady. But if Brady signs with the Titans in a few weeks, that could bring the phone call back into the news cycle.

In any case, the Patriots would likely have to make a fuss in order for the NFL to take further action. Even then, it would be tough to prove the nature of that phone call.

But if the league does take action, it would have a strong witness in Edelman. Given that Edelman wants Brady to remain with the Patriots, his testimony could determine the outcome of any potential investigation. That is, if he’s willing to speak openly about the phone call.

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