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Eagles tampering allegations, explained: How James Franklin’s comments created questions about Saquon Barkley’s contract | Sporting News

The Eagles made a splash move in free agency when they signed running back Saquon Barkley to a three-year deal.

But Philadelphia’s method of pursuing Barkley is now under scrutiny thanks to some comments made by Penn State coach James Franklin.

Franklin implied in comments about Barkley joining the Eagles that the veteran running back spoke directly to Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman during the NFL’s so-called “legal tampering” window.

Teams are not allowed to directly contact players during those 48 hours unless they represent themselves. All negotiations must be facilitated through the player’s agent.

This revelation leaves NFL onlookers wondering whether the Eagles will face tampering charges because of their potentially impermissible contact with Barkley. Here’s what to know about the situation as NFL free agency continues.

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Eagles tampering allegations, explained

What did James Franklin say?

The tampering allegations against the Eagles stem from comments made by Penn State coach James Franklin, who coached Barkley with the Nittany Lions from 2015-17.

Franklin was asked Tuesday about Barkley’s return to Pennsylvania, and the coach said that Roseman used that homecoming as part of his sales pitch to land the top free agent running back.

“For him now to come back and be able to play within the state, in Philadelphia, he said that was one of the first things that Howie said to him on the phone as part of his sales pitch to him was not only the Philadelphia Eagles and that but obviously the connection with Penn State and the fan base as well,” Franklin said, per SI’s Mark Wogenrich.

Franklin’s comments immediately drew attention from across the NFL world. He made them Tuesday, before direct contact between team personnel and free agents was permissible, which implied that Roseman had tampered with Barkley.

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What is tampering in the NFL?

The NFL has a lengthy policy outlining tampering with various players at both the professional and college levels. The Eagles’ case would fall under the “NFL players” section of the policy, which states:

No club, nor any person employed by or otherwise affiliated with a club, is permitted to tamper with a player who is under contract to or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by another club.

Barkley’s contract with the Giants ran through the 2023 league year, which didn’t officially end until the 2024 league year began at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

That said, the Eagles were permitted to contact Barkley’s representation thanks to the “Two-Day Negotiating Period” that the NFL instituted ahead of free agency. That policy allows teams to contact the representatives of players across the league to negotiate contracts and gauge their interest.

Of course, there are a few stipulations around that policy.

“During this two-day period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than his current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than his current club),” the policy reads. “During the two-day negotiating period, all clubs may negotiate all aspects of an NFL Player Contract with the certified agent of any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent.”

The policy also mentions that players representing themselves may speak with teams interested in their services.

Barkley doesn’t represent himself, so any contact he may have had with Roseman would fall under the tampering umbrella.

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Eagles response to tampering allegations

The Eagles denied they were guilty of tampering and that any such conversation between Roseman and Barkley took place. The organization told ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio through a spokesperson that “all player recruiting is facilitated through the player’s agent.”

The Giants have not contacted the NFL about the matter, per ESPN. It remains to be seen if they will.

Either way, the Eagles’ handling of the Barkley contract is nothing novel. Teams toe the line between tampering and legal negotiations each year, as evidenced by Kirk Cousins’ admission that he spoke to the Falcons’ head athletic trainer Tuesday, per ProFootballTalk. This came after Cousins agreed to a four-year, $180 million contract Monday.

Unless the NFL begins to crack down on tampering altogether, it seems like the noise around Barkley will just be but a drop of water in the ocean of the league’s free agent business.

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