With the sports world — and beyond — consumed by the still-unfolding Patriots’ ball-deflation saga, the NFL quietly resolved a lesser, unrelated issue forgotten to most outside of Dolphins headquarters.
The league has determined the Dolphins did not violate its tampering rules in their successful pursuit of free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, an NFL spokesman confirmed Tuesday to the Miami Herald.
On March 11, Suh signed a six-year, $114 million contract, the richest for a defensive player in league history. But three days earlier — and two days before the two sides were allowed to consummate a deal — ESPN reported an agreement was in place, detailing the precise contract figures.
That caused some to suspect that the Dolphins negotiated with Suh’s representatives before the permitted time. The NFL ultimately launched an inquiry into the Dolphins and other teams that might have violated the tampering rule, instructing all 32 teams to keep their phone records for review.
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The outcome of that review: the Dolphins did not break any rules, and will not be subject to penalty.
The news certainly comes as a relief to those in Davie, particularly since the NFL has again demonstrated that violators of league policies will be dealt with harshly.
The league on Monday suspended Tom Brady for four games, fined the Patriots $1 million and docked the team two draft picks after investigator Ted Wells determined New England illegally deflated footballs before the AFC Championship Game, and then obstructed his inquiry.
Wells is the same New York-based attorney who determined Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry bullied fellow Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin and others during the 2013 season. Pouncey recently signed a lucrative contract extension, but Incognito, Jerry and Martin are all long gone from Miami’s roster.
As for the tampering issue, the Dolphins have steadfastly professed their innocence and the Lions said in March that they did not intend to pursue a case against Miami.
The day Suh signed, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross insisted that his team broke no rules.
“I’m confident of that,” Ross said. “I certainly wanted to talk to [Suh] but I knew I couldn’t, and we didn’t.”
Added Ross: “We don’t think that we did anything wrong.”
In the end, the league agreed.