Jets still waiting for verdict on Patriots' tampering charge

Starting Sunday, the NFL will set up shop in Phoenix for the annual owners meetings. One of the topics sure to be raised, perhaps only informally, is the New England Patriots' tampering charge against the New York Jets.

The league still hasn't rendered a decision on whether Jets owner Woody Johnson violated the anti-tampering rule with his ill-advised comment about Darrelle Revis in his season-ending, coach/GM-firing news conference.

The NFL is performing due diligence. As Bleacher Report reported a week ago, the league dispatched an investigator to the Jets' facility March 8 to question team officials about whether they had illegal contact with Revis, who was under contract to the Patriots until March 10.

It's hard not to be cynical, considering the league's less-than-sterling reputation for conducting (botching?) investigations. It probably would take the NFL six months and a six-figure cost to investigate a salad-bar theft from its own cafeteria. Close your eyes, and you can almost picture Inspector Clouseau pulling up to One Jets Drive, looking for answers.

A resolution is expected before the April 30 draft because a tampering penalty could involve the forfeiture of a draft pick or the swapping of picks. A theoretical penalty: The Jets, picking fifth in the fourth round, are forced to change places with the Patriots, who have the 32nd pick.

The last tampering case that resulted in the loss of a draft pick occurred in 2011, when the Detroit Lions got busted for tampering with Kansas City Chiefs players. It cost them a seventh-rounder.

By the letter of the law, Johnson violated the rule when he told reporters, "I'd love for Darrelle to come back." Realizing his mistake, he called Patriots owner Robert Kraft to clarify his comments, saying he "misspoke. I would never interfere in the contractual relationship of a player with another team and should not have used those words."

I believe Johnson -- I don't think it was a malicious comment -- but he said it, and the rule is quite clear:

"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."

It's impossible to determine whether Johnson's comment hurt the Patriots' chances of retaining Revis, although it should be noted they could've kept him by exercising an option -- albeit a $20 million, salary cap-busting option. The story gathered momentum when, on Feb. 1, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was the first to report that the Jets were indeed planning to pursue Revis. Obviously, the league's tampering police took note.

As everybody knows, the Jets landed Revis with a contract the Patriots didn't even try to match -- five years, $70 million, including $39 million fully guaranteed.

Some might argue the Patriots overreacted by filing the tampering charge, but their reason was similar to the Jets' motivation for coveting Revis in the first place -- the chance to weaken a division foe. It'll hurt the Jets if they're stripped of a draft choice. For the Patriots, it won't compensate for the loss of the star cornerback, but here's a news flash for the naive: It's a cutthroat league and teams will do anything to gain an edge.