The news was relatively tame during this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, but we are still in middle of the hottest time of year for smokescreens and leaks surrounding NFL free agency and the draft. A lot of information will be coming at you in the weeks ahead, but it’s best to take most of what you hear with a high level of doubt.
Hundreds of reports, rumors, and sources will be accessible from now until the 2020 NFL Draft in April, but a small percentage of what you read on your timeline will be true. With a lot of money involved, it’s the nature of the business.
Over the weekend, the rumor was that Titans offensive tackle Jack Conklin was set to sign with the Jets during free agency, only for ESPN’s Adam Schefter to proclaim that he is “not expected to land with the offensive-line-needy Jets,” adding: “Jets like him, but the competition for him will be intense and there will be many suitors.”
Schefter’s report sure sounds like something he was fed directly from an agent. It should not surprise anyone if Conklin does end up with the Jets, perhaps with more money in his pocket in part because of the report of “intense” competition for his services.
Speaking of Schefter, he is the main person that’s started the hoopla surrounding Tom Brady’s status with the Patriots, as he aggressively theorized on the six-time Super Bowl champion’s future months ago. However, while it might turn out that Brady does in fact leave the Patriots, this isn’t the first time Schefter has done something similar regarding Brady.
Not even two years ago, Schefter reported that Brady had not yet committed to playing in 2018. It reads like a report you would not read from a massive sports media empire like ESPN, which certainly saw an uptick in clicks on a story about one of the world’s most well-known figures. Two years later, Brady has won another Super Bowl and looks set to sign another contract to play for at least another two or three years.
It seems clear that reporters often speculate or throw a bunch of things out there, and then if something happens to stick, they can say “I told you so.” Unfortunately, that is not limited to reporters trying to build up a reputation, as even those from giants like ESPN and NFL Network speculate to the point where it’s presented as reporting—whether it’s for ego (in case their speculation turns out accurate), followers, website clicks, or just trying to create a story to drive the headlines for TV shows.
Back to agents and teams leaking things to the media, while it might be frowned upon in some instances, it makes sense to boost your client or shield your intentions. In the end, reporters basically have a sort of a quid pro quo—they’ll report something smaller as a favor, with the trade-off being a bigger news scoop down the line.
When reports/rumors turn out inaccurate, it’s easy for reporters to completely ignore previous news and or simply say that things changed. In some cases, unsubstantiated information might become deleted tweets down the line.
Just remember, don’t believe everything you read today unless it comes directly from the source. It’s difficult to fathom that people Tom Brady (a private person) actually trusts would risk their relationship with him to leak his thoughts to the media. And if some NFL teams are actually letting factual information slip, those teams need to tighten their ships.