Patriots accuse Texans of tampering over Nick Caserio

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Houston's search for a new general manager has hit a legal snag.

The New England Patriots have filed tampering charges against the Texans related to their attempted GM hire of Pats director of player personnel Nick Caserio, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. ESPN first reported the news.

The NFL's definition of tampering reads as follows: "The term tampering, as used within the National Football League, refers to any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL."

Houston's firing of general manager Brian Gaine on June 7, one day after New England's Super Bowl ring ceremony, "set off some alarm bells" at Patriots Place, Rapoport added.

The focus of the tampering charges might be Jack Easterby, a former Patriots development director who was hired this offseason as Texans EVP of team development, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. Easterby was in attendance at New England's ring ceremony on Thursday night, one day before Gaine's ouster.

The Texans have no comment on the tampering allegation, Rapoport reported Wednesday.

A potential solution to this conflict is Houston surrendering a draft pick to the Patriots in exchange for Caserio, Rapoport added.

Asked Tuesday whether Easterby made any contact with Caserio before Gaine was fired, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said, "I would say that the answer to that is no, relative to contact about anything having to do with the Houston Texans. No."

The coach added, regarding Easterby, "Jack is just what his title says. He is executive vice president of team development and he helps in all areas of the team. He helps me with the team. He helps in the different departments around the team, the departments that work with the team, obviously the training room, equipment room. He helps me with putting in processes to really help the duties of each department relative to the team. It's all about the team and how can we improve the team and Jack has been an excellent addition to the organization."

Houston interviewed two candidates over the weekend -- Ray Farmer and Martin Mayhew -- both of whom are former GMs. The Texans were reportedly interested in hiring Caserio, who has a relationship with O'Brien, a former Pats offensive coordinator, but New England had not offered permission, as of Wednesday night.

The most recent example of this kind of NFL tampering also involved the Patriots. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was charged with tampering by New England and subsequently fined $100,000 in Apr. 2015 after he made comments in December 2014 that he would "love to have Darrelle back", referring to Darrelle Revis, who at the time was playing with New England on a one-year contract. Revis re-joined the Jets during the 2015 offseason on a five-year pact.

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