Miami Dolphins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should NFL explore possible tampering by Dolphins with Tom Brady?

Miami Dolphins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Simms and I first talked about it on February 28. Since then, the news of the Dolphins targeting both Sean Payton and Tom Brady in the weeks preceding the Brian Flores lawsuit has slowly spread, with more people adding details to the reporting — even as the biggest outlets covering the NFL (ESPN and NFL Network) have completely ignored it.

The story has grown longer legs. More and more media and fans are waking up to it, even if the outlet that first reported it has gotten lost in the sauce. (Twice on Wednesday, for example, I was asked what I think of the Brady to Miami rumors.)

Here’s a summary of the reporting we’ve done. The Dolphins wanted Brady and Payton. The Dolphins eventually admitted publicly that they called the Saints about Payton. The Dolphins privately acknowledge that they had conversations about making Brady a minority owner. But for the Flores lawsuit, he would have been made a minority owner as soon as the week preceding the Super Bowl. Then, the move would have been made for Payton. Later in the spring, Brady’s rights as a player would have been acquired by the Dolphins.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, who has added to this broader chain of reporting, has raised a very good question. Should the NFL be investigating the Dolphins for tampering with Brady?

The easy answer is absolutely yes. Many believe that Brady is the unnamed quarterback in the Flores lawsuit with whom owner Stephen Ross wanted Flores to tamper in 2020. If the Dolphins had a plan that started with Brady becoming a post-retirement minority owner and ended with Brady coming out of retirement to play for the team, there surely were one or more impermissible communications between the Dolphins and/or Brady and/or his agent, Don Yee (who also represents Payton).

But here’s the reality. The NFL rarely enforces the tampering rules. Because everyone tampers. Sometimes, but not often, they’ll nail someone to send a message. If the league wanted to investigate the Dolphins for tampering with Brady, they easily could.

And the Buccaneers could easily make a tampering claim. The Dolphins’ defense quite possibly would include pointing out that the Buccaneers tampered with Brady in 2020. Because they definitely did.

Tampering runs rampant in the NFL. The risk-reward calculation always favors it, since the risk of getting caught is low. Hell, former Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians openly stated his interest in Brady while Brady was still under contract with the Patriots in 2020, and the league never said a word about it.

The league surely realizes that it lacks the infrastructure to properly police tampering. Also, the league most likely isn’t inclined to find, over and over again, that teams cheat so brazenly. Although the NFL has ultimate responsibility for enforcing its rules, the NFL has ultimate accountability for the ensuing tarnish to Big Shield that arises from instance after instance of team being punished for breaking the rules.

So the league looks the other way. Just as it has in the past. Just as it will with the evidence it easily would find if it were to investigate whether the Dolphins have tampered with Brady.

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