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League finds Lions guilty of tampering with Chiefs

The NFL rarely finds that one of its teams has engaged in tampering. Today, the NFL has found that one of its teams has engaged in tampering.

Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports that the league has nailed the Lions for tampering with Chiefs players. The Lions will lose a seventh-round pick acquired from the Broncos in 2011, and the Chiefs and Lions will swap fifth-round picks.

It’s a 14-spot jump for the Chiefs in round five, from 23rd position to ninth.

The charges first came to light in December 2010, arising from statements made earlier in the year by Lions defensive coordinator (and former Chiefs defensive coordinator and head coach) Gunther Cunningham.

“[Kansas City] keeps wanting to dump their players,” Cunningham said in February 2010. “I would like to be there to catch a lot of them, because I know a couple of those guys.”

There’s likely more to the story, since the league typically won’t publicly brand one of its franchises a cheat unless the team is caught with one palm pressed against the bottom of the cookie jar while using the other hand to give the middle finger to the team that owns the cookies.

Per La Canfora, the two sides have until February 28 to appeal. We wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs complain that the penalty amounts to a slap on the wrist. In 2008, the 49ers lost a fifth-round pick and flipped third-rounders with the Bears after San Fran was found guilty of tampering with linebacker Lance Briggs.

UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that the Lions have indeed been busted for tampering, along with the specifics of the penalty.