Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung took to Facebook Friday afternoon to further explain his decision to represent himself in upcoming contract negotiations. Okung will be an unrestricted free agent beginning March 9.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider this week called negotiating directly with free agent left tackle Russell Okung “a little odd, a little awkward.’’
Coach Pete Carroll added, “It poses a challenge for him to do a nice job with this process.’’
But if anyone wondered if Okung might be having second thoughts about his decision to represent himself as he enters the free-agent signing period that begins March 9, he answered them with a statement and video posted Friday on Facebook.
Okung wrote in part that: “This process will be hard but memorable. I initially thought the decision to represent myself in upcoming contract negotiations was solely for me. To my surprise, a number of players reached out to me. They shared the same stories I have. They too, pondered the alternatives to agent representation yet remain undecided because of the uncertainty of their capacity to do so. I refuse to partake in such doubt.’’
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Okung announced last summer in an article for the Players’ Tribune that he planned to represent himself and avoid paying an agent’s fee, which typically is three percent. He later told the Seattle Times that he thinks there is less of a need than ever for rookies to have agents because the NFL has slotted contracts for draft picks, meaning there is little real negotiation.
“You’ve got a whole drafted rookie class getting agents, yet most of their contracts and salaries are slotted,’’ Okung said then. “Why are they getting them? Is it just the norm? What are they really looking at? If they want someone that is marketing them, get a marketing agent. But I just want guys to be educated to the standpoint that they can make decisions and that you can make informed decisions.’’
It was reported this week that Okung has retained former agent J.I. Halsell to counsel him through the process. But Okung said that was something he planned to do all along, saying last summer: “I’ll hire an expert — a lawyer or a sports attorney who understands the dynamic of football contracts — to read the paperwork. I’ll negotiate a one-time flat fee that isn’t dependent on the size of my salary.”
That Okung is representing himself has led many to believe it might be even more difficult for the Seahawks to retain him because he would be even less likely to take a hometown discount.
Schneider said Wednesday he has had preliminary discussions with Okung: “We’ve talked through it. We’ll have a plan in place to talk through things. But yeah, obviously it’s very unique for a player to represent himself.’’
Added Carroll a day later: “It doesn’t change the dynamic, but it is a challenge. It poses a challenge for him to do a nice job with this process. It’s a very complicated process. He’s very close to us. We care a tremendous amount about him. We’re hoping it all works out right. Of course we’d love him back – just like our other guys.”
As of yet, though, Okung appears to be unique — no players attending this week’s NFL combine appear to be representing themselves.
Defensive end Jimmy Bean, who like Okung attended Oklahoma State and said he has gotten to know Okung a bit through the years, said he admires what Okung is doing but thinks players might find comfort in having someone else handle their financial affairs as they make the transition from college to the NFL.
“I think that’s smart on his part to do it on his own,’’ Bean said Friday. “That way he doesn’t have to split (his money) with anybody else.
“I think it’s something that we would like to try but not something most of us are willing to do. We like to have someone to take care of us and have an agent that knows what they are doing.’’
Okung was chosen seventh overall by Seattle in 2010, the last year that rookie contracts could be negotiated, and signed a six-year deal worth $48.5 million. He has been a starter for Seattle each of the past six years and was a Pro Bowl pick in 2012. Though he has battled injuries at times, left tackle is one of the more valued positions in the NFL and Okung is expected to be sought after on the free-agent market.