49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 22, 2009
Tampering charge limits Crabtree's moves

  • Filing tampering allegations is a strategic move by the 49ers. What do I mean by that? The only reason Michael Crabtree would feel secure in sitting out a full season would be if he is certain another team would pay him what he's seeking when the season ends. It's the "ace in the hole" so many prognosticators have cited recently. By accusing the Jets of tampering, the 49ers likely have taken away one of Crabtree's and agent Eugene Parker's aces. The 49ers might not win their tampering case. But they've put the Jets in a position where they can't acquire him. To do so at this point would be to hang a big "guilty" sign around their necks. Filing the tampering charges is designed to force Crabtree deeper into a corner from which his only recourse is to join the 49ers - precisely what the 49ers have wanted all along.

  • What evidence do the 49ers have? ESPN's Chris Mortensen said last night that Deion Sanders' comments on NFL Network earlier this month prompted the 49ers to suspect tampering. Sanders mentioned two teams that were willing to pay Crabtree what he wanted. To zero in on the Jets, the 49ers must have more evidence than Sanders' interview. In order for the league to initiate a tampering investigation, the accusing team has to make the allegation and then submit some form of evidence, spokesman Greg Aiello told me yesterday. For the league to take up such an investigation, it has to be substantial evidence. Sanders made his comments on Sept. 4. Four days later, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked in an on-line chat about the comments and he said he didn't think they constituted tampering. You would have to believe that the 49ers' allegations were made after Goodell made those comments.
  • What would the 49ers get if tampering is proven? It's hard to say. The NFL rules state that teams found guilty of tampering are subject to "severe disciplinary action by the commissioner." In the Lance Briggs tampering case that was resolved last year, the 49ers were docked their fifth-round draft pick in 2008 and had to switch spots with the Bears in the third round of the draft. Briggs is still on the Bears. In 1999, Browns CEO Carmen Policy was fined $10,000 for making public comments about then-Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren that the league decided was tampering. Four years earlier, the Panthers were docked a second-round draft choice for violating rules while pursuing Pittsburgh assistant coach Dom Capers. The penalty for any Crabtree-related tampering likely would depend on whether Crabtree ultimately plays for the 49ers this season or winds up with the 49ers at all. If he doesn't play for the 49ers, they should expect heavy compensation.

  • A couple of dates to keep in mind: If Crabtree isn't signed by Nov. 17, he cannot play in 2009. The first opportunity the 49ers would have to trade Crabtree is March 5.

  • -- Matt Barrows

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    Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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