NFL Free Agency; Legal Tampering?

Mike Wallace
With the free agency period hours away, we can assume Mike Wallace's agent has already had talks with several teams.

The term ‘tampering’ has really only one meaning but it is often used in a number of different ways and one of those of course is when it comes to free agency in professional sports. This Tuesday begins the free agency period in the National Football League and this past Saturday began what the NFL calls ‘legal tampering.’

This is where teams who covet certain free agents can start talking to them without fear of repurcussion. In other words, this is what amounts to what I called¬† earlier ‘legal tampering.’ The problem is, are we really supposed to believe this is the only time when tampering occurs?

Cliff Avril
There are already reports that Avril has heard from the Colts.

Pre-free agency talks are basically the NFL’s version of ‘covert affairs.’ Some of the top free agent players like Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace and Detroit’s Cliff Avril are expected to be courted by several different teams in an effort to secure their services. While these particular teams may not have necessarily spoken directly to Wallace and Avril, you can bet your bottom dollar their agents were working phones better than Labor Day Telethon celebrity.

The disturbing part about this is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acts as though this tampering doesn’t happen. He clearly believes that by allowing the ‘legal tampering’ period three days prior to the actual signing period that agents and teams would never break this rule. This is one of many disturbing problems Goodell avoids dealing with. He often reminds me of the one kid in the pool playing ‘Marco Polo’ who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding any other kids simply because he just doesn’t stop and think.

Why else do the Adam Schefters and Chris Mortenson’s of the world consistently know what player is being contacted by what team?

Oh sure you can put two and two together and assume that a team that desperately needs a pass rushing defenseive end would likely seek a guy like Avril but no always. Therefore reporters rely on agents and publicity guys to let them know absolutely what is going on with the free agent moves.

I guarantee that even before Tuesday’s deadline is passed you’ll hear about who has a tentative deal with who and so on. What you as a bettor of the game of football can take from all of the free agency is actually a lot. Sometimes football futures look awfully appetizing even as early as May or June and knowing where free agents land can help you decide just where to lay your money down.

Obviously you’re going to know where a Mike Wallace or a Cliff Avril land in free agency, but sometimes knowing where the solid back-ups and the more obscure offensive or defensive lineman. While free agents signings don’t always pay dividends immediately in terms of titles they can certainly do that in the long run.

The biggest reason I suggest, hint-hint,¬† that teams are tampering illegally prior to the ‘legal tampering period’ is money. With the hard cap the National Football League has for its’ 32 teams, that means each organization must meet cap limits at certain points during the off-season. When a team is looking at specific free agents, it must plan for the potential salary for that player. For teams like the Cleveland Browns for example who have a lot of cap space available, this doesn’t mean quite as much. They’ll have some wiggle room much more so than say a team like Dallas that is right against the cap.

This is why tampering happens whether it’s legal or not and if you think it doesn’t then man, do I have a deal for you!