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Tampering charge against Jets remains unresolved

Jets owner Woody Johnson said he wanted Darrelle Revis back in New York in December, and got his wish on Tuesday.
Jets owner Woody Johnson said he wanted Darrelle Revis back in New York in December, and got his wish on Tuesday.(Rich Schultz/Getty Images/File)

The Jets earned a major victory on the offseason scoreboard on Tuesday when they swiped Darrelle Revis away from the Patriots, a double-whammy that made the Jets a lot better and the Patriots a lot worse.

But the battle over Revis isn’t quite finished. There’s still one matter to be resolved — the tampering charge the Patriots levied against the Jets in late December.

Jets owner Woody Johnson was asked by a reporter on Dec. 29 about the prospect of bringing back Revis, and Johnson should have avoided the question, since NFL rules prevent teams from talking about signing players currently under contract with other teams. Instead, Johnson took the bait.

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“Darrelle is a great player, and if I thought I could have gotten Darrelle for [what the Patriots paid], I probably would’ve taken him,” Johnson said that day. “And it was our best judgment to do what we did. Darrelle is a great player. I’d love for Darrelle to come back.”

With one simple statement, Johnson let it be known that he wanted Revis, that he made a mistake by not signing him last offseason, and that he was willing to rectify his mistake.

The NFL doesn’t convict teams for tampering too often — it’s usually hard to find a paper trail proving the tampering — but now that Revis has, in fact, gone back to the Jets, this one seems pretty cut and dried.

This is direct from the NFL’s anti-tampering policy:

Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media, is a violation of this Anti-Tampering Policy. (Example of a prohibited comment: “He’s an excellent player, and we’d very much like to have him if he were available, but another club holds his rights.”)

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Johnson tried to walk back his comments, and he personally called Patriots owner Robert Kraft with an apology.

“I misspoke today when I commented on Darrelle Revis,” Johnson later said. “I would never interfere in the contractual relationship of a player with another team and should not have used those words. I called Robert Kraft this afternoon to emphasize those points.”

But the damage was done, and you can’t un-ring that bell. Johnson got the message out to Revis, and now Revis is a Jet.

An NFL spokesman said Wednesday morning that the tampering charge is pending. What could the Patriots expect as restitution if the Jets are found guilty? Based on NFL precedent, not much.

In 2011, the Lions were busted for tampering when defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said in December 2010 that he wants to “catch” all of the players that the Chiefs were dumping. The NFL forced the Chiefs and Lions to swap fifth-round picks, while the Lions also lost a seventh-rounder.

And in 2008, the 49ers were found guilty of tampering with Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, and were forced to lose a fifth-round pick and swap third-round picks with the Bears.

So at most, we can expect the Jets to lose a mid- to late-round draft pick, and to swap a mid-round pick with the Patriots. The Jets pick near the beginning of each round and the Patriots at the end, so it could be a swap of maybe 25 draft slots.

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But the potential punishment for the Jets won’t be anything that comes close to replacing the loss of Revis in the Patriots’ lineup.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.