The 49ers are being fined for tampering with Chicago Bear’s linebacker Lance Briggs. According to the report, the 49ers contacted Briggs in the middle of potential trade talks between the two teams about a potential contract extension.
The 49ers are forfeiting their 5th round pick, and swapping 3rd rounders with the Bears. To my knowledge, this is the first time a team has been penalized since th eleague announced it was going to get harsher with the tampering rules earlier this year.
I’m all for enforcing the rules, and it appears that the 49ers cooperated with the investigation fully which essentially means they must have admitted they did it (or as close as you can to admitting it without hanging yourself). Fine and dandy, but seriously, how much tampering could they have done if Lance Briggs is still a Bear?
The purpose of these rules as I understand it is to prevent teams from negotiating with a player while they still belong to a different franchise. For instance, if the owner of a team got up on a podium in September, stuck his pinky in his mouth and said, “We really love Joe Smith. We can’t wait until he is a free agent. When he is one at the end of the season we plan on giving him one billion dollars” that would be a real problem. It would disrupt the other team, and drive up his price without being binding at all. It would hurt players and teams.
But look at this case. The 49ers jumped the gun in the midst of trade talks that were publically reported. Briggs was being actively shopped. Reportedly, the 49ers didn’t like what they heard about the extension and backed off. So, they found this out a little early in the process? So what? Didn’t they just save everybody a little time? Briggs not only stayed with his team last year, but re-signed after his free agency this year. What did this cost the Bears?
Now, I’m not trying to downplay rules infractions. They cheated. They deserve a punsihment. But why not a fine? This seems like a pretty harsh penalty for the circumstances. What would be the penalty had Lance Briggs ended up signing with the 49ers in the offseason or something?
If this is considered worth losing a 5th rounder for, I think chances are pretty good that if every teams’ actions were known, we could just cancel the 5th round.