NFL may investigate Milloy's contact with other teams
Posted: Sunday September 7, 2003 8:12PM; Updated: Sunday September 7, 2003 8:13PM
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Lawyer Milloy would like to fade into the NFL woodwork and get back to being one of the game's best strong safeties on the field and one of its most low-key citizens off it. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon, at least not until the NFL investigates a possible tampering incident that Milloy admitted took place before his stunning firing by the New England Patriots on Tuesday morning.
Milloy, a four-time Pro Bowl safety with the Patriots, signed with the Bills Thursday and is likely to make his Buffalo debut Sunday against New England in a poetic-justice sort of season opener for both teams. Those headlines could soon be eclipsed by questions over whether his agent, Carl Poston, was in contact with other NFL teams before the Patriots released Milloy.
In an interview with SI.com at Bills headquarters Friday, Milloy said Patriots coach Bill Belichick told him last weekend that if he didn't agree to a pay cut from his scheduled salary of $4.4 million to $2.5 million (what he made last year), the Patriots were going to have to cut him. New England imposed a 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday for getting the restructured deal done, as that's when NFL rosters had to be finalized for Week 1.
Poston could not be reached for comment Saturday. There was no answer at his Texas office.
This didn't come out of the blue. Milloy had known since the spring that the Patriots wanted to reduce his salary drastically; the average salary of the top five safeties in football in 2003 was $3.2 million, and New England felt that even though Milloy had made the Pro Bowl in four of the previous five seasons, $4.4 million was just too high. But Poston and Patriots senior vice president Andy Wasynczuk, handling the negotiations for the team, couldn't reach an agreement on how to restructure the contract.
Milloy said Poston "called some teams to see who would want me'' before Tuesday morning, then added: "The Redskins gave us a bigger offer than the Patriots.''
The Redskins, however, denied having negotiated with Poston before Milloy was waived.
"Carl called us after [Milloy] got cut," Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said Saturday afternoon. "Carl did not call me before that. I read about [Milloy's release] on, I think, CBS Sportsline, and then I got a call from Carl."
Cerrato did say he had been in contact with Poston last week, but it was about possibly placing another player represented by Poston on the Redskins.
"All I can say is, from our end, I never talked to Carl about it until after Lawyer was released," Cerrato said.
Through a Bills spokesman, general manager Tom Donahoe said Saturday afternoon that his team had no contact with Poston until Milloy's name hit the NFL waiver wire Tuesday. But Milloy did not name Buffalo; the only team he named was Washington.
If there was contact between Poston or Milloy and other NFL teams before Tuesday morning, it would clearly violate the league's anti-tampering policy, which outlaws contact between a player or his agent and other teams while he is under contract to one of the league's 32 teams.
An NFL spokesman had no comment on whether the league would investigate this report, but it is likely to, particularly if the Patriots, as expected, get their noses out of joint over Poston's seeking offers for Milloy before he was a free man. The Patriots probably will argue that if Poston and Milloy did not have a lucrative alternative to the New England contract, they might have been more likely at the 11th hour to play ball with the Pats.
The league policy reads: "If a club is contacted by a player [or his representative] who is under contract to another club, and such player had not been given permission to deal with other clubs ... then the contacted club is prohibited from talking or otherwise dealing with a player or his representative, and the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player's rights.''
Patriots officials had little reaction Saturday morning to a possible tampering incident. "There's really nothing I can say about it," said Belichick. "I have no comment."
Belichick did say, however, that "unequivocably, I did not talk to any owners of any teams about Lawyer" before he was cut.
Another Patriots source said he was certain that no team called New England to inform the club of any contact between Poston and other teams, which is hardly surprising.
Clearly Milloy feels his agent was just looking out for his best interests, and he saw nothing wrong with Poston investigating all avenues for him -- even if that investigation occured before he was a free agent. "He cares about the player,'' said Milloy. "It's obvious this organization [New England] didn't care about the player. To an organization, players are expendible. The Patriots weren't loyal to me or loyal to my contract. Why wouldn't a player want an agent fighting for his rights like mine did?''
The league, if pressed by the Patriots, is likely to disagree. But it wouldn't be Poston the NFL disciplines; it would be the team or teams that discussed Milloy's future with Poston before he was a part of the Patriots' past. That discipline could take the form of a warning letter, a fine or a loss of a draft pick. But in no way is it likely to alter the final events of this week. Milloy, who signed a four-year $15 million contract with the Bills on Thursday, will remain in Buffalo.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com. Monday Morning Quarterback appears in this space every week.