49ers claim Jets tampered with Crabtree

Updated: September 21, 2009, 7:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers have filed tampering charges against the New York Jets regarding top San Francisco draft pick Michael Crabtree, Jets coach Rex Ryan confirmed Monday.

"My understanding is they filed charges with the league," Ryan said. "I'm saying my response is it's not true. I mean, it's not accurate. It's not true, but, hey, we'll let the league figure this out."

When asked Monday if his team filed charges, 49ers coach Mike Singletary said it's a situation "the league is going to handle internally."

"I'm not going to get into that. We'll let that play out, the process," Singletary said. "I'm not even going to go there. We'll let the league handle that and go from there."

The 22-year-old Crabtree, selected No. 10 overall by the Niners in April's draft, is the last draft pick not signed. The wide receiver is seeking money comparable to higher picks and hasn't accepted the 49ers' offer for approximately five years and $20 million, with a reported $16 million guaranteed.

The tampering charges were first reported by the New York Daily News.

What helped draw the 49ers' attention to the issue was when Deion Sanders said he knew two teams that were willing to pay Crabtree what he wanted. The 49ers organization grew alarmed at the comments, investigated and decided to report its concerns to the league.

Among the organization's biggest concerns would be that, if indeed another team had told Crabtree it would meet his asking price, it would greatly impede the 49ers' chances of signing their first-round pick. San Francisco was alarmed that another team -- perhaps the Jets -- had inflated Crabtree's expectations and compromised its chances of signing him. It is why San Francisco filed the tampering charges.

The newspaper reported the Jets continue to covet a big-name receiver after failing to land Percy Harvin in this year's draft. Harvin was picked 22nd by the Minnesota Vikings.

Earlier, Ryan commented during "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio that he wished the Jets played the 49ers this season.

"Yes, and I'll stand by that comment," he told reporters later in the day. "That means we're in the Super Bowl, so I'll definitely take that. "

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to The Associated Press the league doesn't comment on alleged tampering, but would announce any disciplinary action taken against a team found in violation of the NFL's tampering policy.

The 49ers have until Nov. 17 to sign Crabtree -- the 10th overall pick -- in order for him to play this season.

After Aug. 14, the Niners no longer were permitted to trade Crabtree's rights. The next point he can be traded is at the start of the 2010 trading period on March 5.

If Crabtree is not signed and he is not traded, he would go back into the April draft.

While Crabtree falls further behind with each passing day -- former 49ers great Jerry Rice questioned Sunday what kind of impact Crabtree would have if he did finally show up -- Singletary isn't ready to say he's better off without the Texas Tech star in San Francisco's run-oriented offense.

"I would never say that. ... We need every football player that can help us win that's supposed to be here, here," Singletary said. "I think he's a talented guy. Hopefully it works out that he gets here. If he doesn't, I feel comfortable with what we have."

The 49ers were caught tampering two years ago. They forfeited their fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft and switched third-round picks with the Bears after commissioner Roger Goodell said they tampered with Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs.

Goodell said the 49ers violated the NFL's anti-tampering policy by contacting Briggs' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, about his client during the 2007 season. Niners general manager Scot McCloughan said at the time the team believed it acted "within the NFL guidelines."

Crabtree caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns last year during his sophomore season at Texas Tech. He finished his college career with 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 TDs.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.

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