The deal Okung struck for himself with Denver also won't win over many skeptics. He now has 12 months to prove to the Broncos he is worth a heavy investment.
The big subplot of Russell Okung’s free agency was the fact that he represented himself. It was a decision he made in an to attempt to show to other players they could also take more control of their futures, and not pay the typical 3 percent agent’s fee.
So did Okung accomplish his goal?
One who thinks few players will likely follow in Okung’s footsteps is former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes about salary cap issues for CBSSports.com.
“I don’t think he really has done anything revolutionary where you are going to see players lined up to go down the same path he did,’’ Corry said Thursday night.
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From the start, many observers have figured it unlikely few players would really want to follow Okung’s footsteps if for no other reason than the work involved and that many also don’t share Okung’s background — Okung earned a business degree at Oklahoma State and in the off-season has taken classes in an Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes program at the University of Miami. Okung also was in a pretty rare situation to take something of a risk, having already made $48.5 million from his original six-year deal with the Seahawks.
The deal Okung struck for himself with Denver also won’t win over many skeptics.
While it’s officially a five-year agreement that could pay him as much as $56 million, Denver has to exercise an option after next season for Okung to get the last four years — and $48 million. His contract for 2016 was initially reported as $5 million guaranteed and another $3 million in possible incentives.
That means Okung could get just $5 million and be a free agent again next year. (In fact,it was revealed Friday morning that the $5 million for 2016 initially portrayed as being guaranteed is, in fact, not really guaranteed at all. Instead, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, the deal includes a $1 million workout bonus, $2 million base salary and a $2 million roster bonus for being on the 53-man for at least one game. In essence, there is not a single dollar guaranteed at signing. After even more details were revealed, Pro Football Talk pretty much just scathed Okung for the deal he got for himself).
If Okung does indeed become a free agent again a year from now — which with every contract detail that is revealed makes seem more likely — Corry says Okung could well answer the question himself of whether he thought it was worth it to act as his own agent.
“I’d be curious to see if it really does become a one-year deal, does he handle it himself again next year?’’ Corry said (in a blog post published Thursday night, Okung talked about the process and wrote “I’m proud to say I stuck with my initial promise: I bet on myself.”)
How much it mattered that Okung represented himself is also hard to determine, Corry said.
Corry said he assumes it made negotiations with the Seahawks awkward, and may have made it less likely he would return to Seattle.
“I imagine the conversations they had to have with him were probably difficult because they had to tell him he had an inflated sense of value and why, which was basically being critical ,’’ Corry said. “So that couldn’t have helped a long-term relationship.’’
There’s a thought Okung initially wanted at least $11 million a year, a number the Seahawks were never going to approach. There’s also a thought that each side wondered how good it would be to have Okung return on a much lesser deal, one that might have created hard feelings and maybe even created an awkward locker room dynamic for a player who has been regarded as one of the team’s strongest leaders the last six years. A source has said the Seahawks did not have an offer on the table for Okung at the end.
But probably the biggest factor impacting the deal Okung ultimately got was his health and questions about his durability.
Okung missed 24 games in six years with the Seahawks and also had surgery in February to repair a dislocated shoulder suffered in the divisional playoff loss against Carolina.
“I think the injury didn’t do him any favors,’’ Corry said.
Corry, though, notes that Okung couldn’t have been helped by not being able to talk to teams at the NFL combine or during the two-day tampering period before the signing period began.
Corry also wonders about some of the visits Okung took, especially to teams like New York with established left tackles, meaning Okung would have to agree to playing right tackle, which would pay him less. An agent might have sped up the process, Corry thinks.
“Going to the Giants didn’t make a lot of sense,’’ Corry said. “To me it seemed like a waste of time. … Fortunately he got a deal before the money dried up.’’
In many ways, the deal Okung signed is no different than the one that Kelvin Beachum got from Jacksonville, a one-year, $4.5 million contract that then includes a four-year team option for $40 million. Beachum is also coming off an injury having suffered a torn ACL in October.
“It’s really a try-it-before-you-buy-it deal moreso than a conventional deal,’’ Corry said.
A few other players have gotten similar contracts, notably defensive tackle Henry Melton in 2014 with Dallas
Melton, who was also coming off an ACL injury, got a one-year contract worth $3.5 million with the team then having an option for four years and $24 million. Dallas declined the option and Melton moved on to Tampa Bay and a one-year, $3.5 million deal.
Okung, 27 and already a winner of a Super Bowl ring and two Pro Bowl invites, now has 12 months to prove to the Broncos he is worth a heavy investment. That decision next year figures to go a long way toward determining the legacy of Okung’s decision last summer.