Tampering Season is here, folks.
The wallet of wordsmith/Raiders coach Jon Gruden could soon become a little lighter. Gruden was a guest on the "Cris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman" and pretty much tried to hand the 49ers cornerback a Silver and Black jersey right there.
“Richard Sherman, if you are a free agent, which there is a rumor you are, we are looking for an alpha presence in our secondary,” Gruden said. “Somebody that could play this Hawk 3-press technique with the read step. If you’re available and interested, maybe you and I can get together at some point off-air.”
Sherman seemed to like the sound of that.
"There's a conversation to be had, for sure," Sherman said to Gruden. "I am free and available these days, fortunately, and unfortunately."
Here's the problem: That sounds a whole lot like tampering. One unnamed general manager isn't happy, too.
“This is blatant tampering," an anonymous GM said to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio.
The GM isn't wrong. Here's what Florio found from the NFL's Anti-Tampering Policy: “Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media, is a violation of this Anti-Tampering Policy. (Example of a prohibited comment: ‘He’s an excellent player, and we’d very much like to have him if he were available, but another club holds his rights.’)”
Gruden did that, and then some. Sure, Sherman is presumed to be a free agent but he isn't technically one yet. That won't happen until March 17, when the new league year begins.
When Florio reached out to the NFL via email, the league declined to comment.
It's not a sure thing the NFL will punish Gruden or the Raiders. But this isn't Gruden's first rodeo in the NFL. He should know better by now, no matter how much of a great sound bite he might be on a podcast.