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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

NFL proposing measures to curtail tampering, tanking



The NFL's competition committee has put forward a measure that would create a five- to seven-day moratorium period at the start of free agency during which contract negotiations would be permitted but not signings.

The proposal, one of many that will be discussed during next week's owners' meetings in Palm Beach, is aimed at reducing the amount of improper contact between teams and players and their representatives before the start of the signing period.

The idea is to give teams and free agents adequate time to consult before contracts can actually be signed so that when the signing period begins, all teams have had ample opportunity to recruit. Contact would be permitted between teams and certified agents only under the proposal. Contact between teams and players would be considered a violation and could result in tampering charges.

The news ironically comes the same week the league forced the 49ers to forfeit a fifth-round draft pick and swap third-round picks with the Bears after commissioner Roger Goodell ruled San Francisco tampered with Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs before his becoming a free agent.

And on Monday, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards strongly implied the Bucs engaged in tampering in their recruitment of free agent center Jeff Faine, who signed a rich contract with the Bucs on the first day of free agency. The proposal was being discussed long before this week's event, league officials said.

"We feel like there's too much contact," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chair of the competition committee.

Similar methods have been used successfully in other leagues, including the NBA.

Another proposal under consideration is one that would alter the seeding process for the playoffs. Rather than have division winners automatically seeded in the top four in each conference, the measure would seed teams according to their records, with tiebreakers going to division winners.

The idea likely would influence teams to continue to play to win even after clinching their divisions before the end of the regular season. The Bucs clinched the NFC South with two weeks remaining last season and benched many starters in the final two games, resulting in games that could be construed as less entertaining and less competitive.

The concern, McKay said, goes to "the integrity of the game."

There are many favorable arguments for both of these proposals. The moratorium proposal will even the playing field and reduce the need to engage in tampering, which probably is more widespread than we even know.

And the measure attempting to change the seeding process surely will be supported by anyone who had to sit through either the Bucs' final two games in 2007 (me!). Had their seeding been in serious jeopardy, perhaps Jon Gruden would have played his starters in those final two games. Maybe they would have performed better in the playoffs, too, because they would have been in better rhythm. That, we'll never know.

We'll keep you posted on both concepts and determine how much support they have during the owners' meetings.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:59pm]


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