After a detailed investigation and a hearing involving both teams, the NFL determined Monday that the San Francisco 49ers violated the league's anti-tampering policy by contacting the agent for Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs this past season without getting permission first.
As a result, the 49ers will forfeit its fifth-round selection in the NFL Draft this coming April. Additionally, the teams will flip-flop their selections in Round 3, with the Bears now picking seventh and the 49ers picking 12th. Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that both organizations cooperated fully from the start of the proceedings.
Briggs, an unrestricted free agent after the 2007 season, was re-signed by Chicago on Mar. 1 to a six-year deal worth $36 million.
JC's Take: San Francisco's punishment would likely have been much worse had Briggs ultimately left the Bears for another team, but the NFL's ruling seems to be pretty fair.
Moving up five spots may not seem like much, although it could make a difference considering the teams that would have been in front of Chicago had they been forced to stay at 12th in Round 3. Picking seventh now means the Midway Monsters will leapfrog the Jaguars, Bills, Vikings, and Panthers, and all of those teams might be in the market for a quarterback at some point on draft weekend. Those five spots could mean landing a promising young signal-caller like Chad Henne of Michigan – or being forced to wait around for a lesser-heralded prospect like Paul Smith of Tulsa much later on Day 2.
The 49ers would have also been a team potentially taking a QB away from the Bears, as Alex Smith has done very little in three seasons since being taken No. 1 overall.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.