This time of year is a real dead zone for NFL news, generally speaking. All of the second- and third-tier free agents have been signed, and we’re left to aimlessly speculate about the performances of players in OTAs with no pads. The New England Patriots, as they are wont to do, have decided to make things interesting.
Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday the Patriots filed tampering charges against the Houston Texans. It’s unusual to hear about tampering outside of the NBA, but here we are. The Texans have apparently been too enthusiastic in their pursuit of Nick Caserio, New England’s longtime director of player personnel.
The Texans fired their GM last week, months after the draft and free agency concluded. It was found to be interesting timing, to say the least, and in retrospect, the most interesting part was that it came a day after the Patriots’ Super Bowl ring ceremony. They’ve tagged Caserio as the replacement, which isn’t a surprise; they attempted to interview Caserio after they fired longtime GM Rick Smith in 2017, but were denied because the Patriots were in a playoff run. Along with that history, head coach Bill O’Brien was an offensive coordinator in New England for several years before heading out to Penn State and, eventually, Houston. The organizations are quite familiar with one another off the field.
This situation, though, is more complicated than it appears on the surface. The Patriots, per the league handbook, are permitted to block any interviews from other teams if the move is seen as lateral or a demotion. If it’s a promotion, however, they have no power to do so. While Caserio is not the team’s official general manager, word around Foxboro suggests that he is, in all but name, the GM. The Texans can argue that they’re interviewing him for a promotion, because technically speaking, going from director of player personnel to GM is indeed a promotion. The Patriots, however, can counter that the level of responsibility Caserio has within the organization is equal to or greater than that of a GM, striking down the notion that the Texans are looking to give him a promotion.
I’d say the situation will get more clear as more information comes to light, but this is the Patriots. More information probably won’t come to light, especially in regards to just how much Caserio does. The Texans may be in a tough spot if they had their sights set on Caserio and can’t get him, though. Hopefully they have a Plan B, because this is the NFL, and decisions rarely come quickly.