Jon Gruden accused of 'blatant tampering' with Richard Sherman


If you're going to push the envelope on NFL rules, it's probably best to do it in a setting where you aren't being recorded.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden recently appeared on Cris Collinsworth and Richard Sherman's podcast, and may have gotten himself in trouble for not-so-subtly showing that the team will be interested in "an alpha presence in our secondary," like one of the podcast hosts he was talking to.

Collinsworth: “I know there’s tampering rules out there and I don’t want to bring up anything that might create a problem for you, because I know that you’ve been fined a few shekels over the years."

Gruden: "I’ve been fined, I’ve been punished very, very harshly. 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. 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."

Even though the 49ers season has long been over and Sherman will become eligible for free agency this offseason, he's technically still employed by the team. An outside organization like the Raiders cannot discuss potential interest in Sherman with him or his representatives until March 15, when the legal tampering window opens. That doesn't mean that tampering, whether directly or indirectly, doesn't take place before then - of course it does. But to do it in such a brazen manner on a podcast, it's just not very smart of Gruden.

An anonymous general manager reached out to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk to say that Gruden's actions demonstrate "blatant tampering," in his opinion. Florio says the NFL declined to issue a statement on the matter. Should the 49ers decide to make a problem about it, seemingly they would have a pretty cut-and-dry case.

Sherman, who will turn 33 in March, was limited to just five games in 2020, as he was one of many 49ers who dealt with injuries this past season. Still, the three-time All-Pro is likely to garner quite a bit of interest this offseason, and whether they want to keep him at cornerback or try him as a safety, the Raiders would make quite a bit of sense as a landing spot for Sherman.

Before being complimentary of new Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, once Sherman's coordinator in Seattle, the future Hall of Famer didn't exactly rebuff the advances of Gruden.

"There's a conversation to be had for sure," Sherman said. "I am free and available these days, fortunately and unfortunately."

The problem here is that for a few more weeks, Sherman is not "free and available," he's an employee of the 49ers.

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