The NFL announced Wednesday that it has stripped the Chiefs of two draft picks and fined the team for violating the league’s anti-tampering policy in last year’s pursuit of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
The infraction, the league says, came during the pre-free agency negotiating period last March, when the Chiefs were courting Maclin, then under contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The league says the Chiefs had direct contact with Maclin during the negotiating period, which is strictly prohibited. The Chiefs eventually signed Maclin to a five-year, $55 million deal.
The Chiefs will lose their third-round pick this year and sixth-round pick next year. The club will also be fined $250,000, while coach Andy Reid will be fined $75,000 and general manager John Dorsey will be fined $25,000. The Chiefs now have five days to appeal the decision in writing.
In a statement, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt did not deny the charges, but he did make it clear that he disagrees with the decision and indicated that appealing it is an option worth exploring.
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“While we respect Commissioner (Roger) Goodell and the process, we believe that the penalties proposed in this case are inconsistent with discipline enforced in similar matters — particularly given the league’s inconsistent communication of its policies on contact with potential free agents,” Hunt said.
In prior years, teams were allowed to talk with the agents for players during the legal tampering period and were not allowed to make an actual offer or reach a tentative agreement with the player before the actual start of free agency.
These rules seemed to be violated frequently, though — word of Ndamukong Suh’s massive deal with Miami broke before free agency began last year, even before Maclin’s deal was announced — and this year, the league shortened the tampering window from three days to two and allowed teams to negotiate all aspects of a player’s contract, according to a leaguewide memo sent March 2 that was obtained by Pro Football Talk.
Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, assessed the discipline on the Chiefs in a letter to Hunt but gave them credit for cooperating fully with the investigation.
“The goal is to balance the seriousness of the violation of an important and longstanding competitive rule (the anti-tampering policy), with appropriate recognition of the club’s history (no prior offenses), and the cooperation shown by both the club and individual employees,” Vincent wrote in the league’s statement. “The discipline should be sufficient, both to deter future violations and encourage cooperation in future investigations.
“The assessment of discipline here accounts for the fact that the club and its personnel were fully cooperative and forthcoming in the investigation. In this case, our staff had full access to all of the information requested, including electronic and telephone records, and unrestricted access to all club people whom we sought to interview.”
The Chiefs’ level of cooperation hints, perhaps, at why Hunt seems unhappy with the ruling.
“As an organization, we take great care to conduct ourselves with integrity and operate within the guidelines of the NFL,” Hunt said in the statement. “We have been fully cooperative and transparent with the league in this matter, and we are disappointed with the league’s decision. I want to make it clear that I fully support the leadership of both Coach Reid and John Dorsey. We will continue to explore our options under the appeal process.”
Maclin, who turns 28 in May, led the Chiefs in catches (87), receiving yards (1,088) and receiving touchdowns (eight) this season, giving them the No. 1 receiver they so desperately needed after their receivers failed to score a single touchdown in 2014.
Even with the loss of this year’s third-round pick, the Chiefs will still have seven selections in this year’s draft. They acquired an additional fifth-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks for safety Kelcie McCray last September.