Tommy Stevens’ tug of war reveals NFL’s dirty little secret

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On April 21, the NFL reminded all coaches, general managers and player personnel managers of the clear rules regarding communications with prospects before and during the draft. On April 25, these rules were again blatantly violated, probably by each team.

Proof of this comes from nonchalance with the Saints’ coach Sean Payton, sharing details of the auction war for Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens. In comments to Jeff Duncan of TheAthletic.com, Payton admitted that he had finally resumed the seventh inning to disrupt an agreement the Panthers had made with Stevens and his agent on a contract to be signed after the draft.

The rules in this regard are clear and were reiterated in the April 21 note from the League’s Player Personnel Department. Once the draft has started, teams not on the clock may speak to representatives of players who have not yet been drafted, but these conversations should only focus on non-financial matters.

The memo (of which PFT has obtained a copy) contains this message, which is the only passage from the three-page document which appears in bold type, with underlining and yellow highlighting: “Although a club may inform a player or his agent that the club would be interested in the player’s services if the player is not drafted, no oral or written agreement can be reached regarding the future employment of a player. “

Payton’s account of the events which led the Saints to return to the seventh round and write Stevens shows that the Saints and the Panthers broke the rules by discussing financial matters and making financial offers to Stevens while the project was underway. ongoing. The Panthers committed the most egregious violation by entering into an agreement with Stevens during the draft.

” [The Panthers] felt like they had signed, sealed and delivered it, “said assistant saints G.M. Jeff Ireland said on Monday, while appearing on the team’s official website podcast (via Duncan). ” [The] the agent didn’t really talk to us, so we just decided to take it from him. . . . There is a little competitive juice flying between me and Sean about: “We want this player. We are not going to let anyone take it from us. “

The league office declined to comment on the matter, but a league source has predicted that the Saints and Panthers will be sanctioned for this violation.

If this happens, it will become the latest example of inconsistent application of the rules by the league. This time around, however, the NFL insisted on the rule, perhaps due to the fact that the project’s housewife nature would make the rush for undrafted free agents even more difficult than usual. Even though all teams have broken this rule in the past, the league wanted everyone to follow the rule in the 2020 draft.

Of course, it is entirely possible that each team also ignored the rule during this project. The problem for Saints and Panthers, however, is that the example of Stevens is the only one that has been revealed. And if the Saints and Panthers do get in trouble about this, we hope the league is ready to fully and fairly investigate the other 30 teams. Most, if not all, are likely to have done the same.

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