Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung is working to help his fellow players learn how to handle their own contract negotiations.
RENTON — On the field, Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung protects the blind side for the team’s quarterbacks.
Off of it, he is now attempting to open up the eyes of his fellow players with the Seahawks, and around the league, that the accepted way of doing business may not have to be the only way.
Okung, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2010, can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
And when he hits the open market, Okung plans to represent himself in negotiations with the Seahawks or any other team.
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Okung revealed the plan in a recent first-person article written for The Players’ Tribune titled “Betting on Myself,” in which he stated his case for why players may not need to always hire an agent, which usually comes with a standard 3 percent fee.
After Seattle’s practice Saturday, Okung said the reaction from players within the team and around the league has been strong and positive.
“A lot of guys really want to understand it,’’ Okung said. “They don’t understand that they have the resources at hand to understand the numbers of their situation. I don’t know why. But if it had to take me to put an article out there for guys to understand what I’m doing, I’m all down for it. A lot of guys have reached out to me to understand the process and are eager to see how it goes.’’
Okung said he had been thinking about representing himself for a year and a half. As he wrote in The Players’ Tribune, he plans to hire legal counsel as needed to handle paperwork, paying a one-time flat fee.
Okung says hiring people to do specific jobs for flat fees may be a better approach than the standard practice of hiring an agent for a percentage of salary.
He pointed specifically to rookies, whose needs changed after the adoption of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which instituted a predetermined rookie pre-scale based on where a player is drafted.
“You’ve got a whole drafted rookie class getting agents, yet most of their contracts and salaries are slotted,’’ Okung said. “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.’’
One rookie last year — Ereck Flowers of the New York Giants — did just that. Flowers, the No. 9 overall pick, handled the signing of his slotted rookie contract (four years, $14.4 million) himself, saving an estimated $432,000, according to NJ.com.
Okung, interestingly, was drafted in the last class before the new rookie pay scale. His former agent, Peter Schaffer, helped Okung get a six-year, $48.5 million deal that runs out after the 2015 season.
Okung said he didn’t want to talk about whether he has already talked to the Seahawks about his future, and said he isn’t stressing over what will come next.
“I’m grateful for where I’m at,’’ he said. “I still get a chance to play with the Seahawks, so I’m going to be showing my gratitude in the way that I come out here every single day and grab my lunchpail and go to work.’’
He also pronounced himself healthy, something that has been a challenge throughout his Seattle career — he has missed 21 games in his previous five seasons due to various injuries.
As much as his playing, though, Okung said he hopes his legacy includes his efforts in educating fellow players about their options.
New York Giants’ running back Rashad Jennings told USA Today that what Okung is doing is “awesome. It’s bringing attention to particular areas of our industry.’’
USA Today also noted that the NFL Players Association Board of Representatives in March unanimously passed a resolution to form a committee to re-examine agent fees and educate rookies on their options. That committee includes Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett.
Okung laughs and says that “I’m not the agent’s best friend right now.’’
But Okung says his broader point is to emphasize to players to take control of as many areas of their careers as they can, including what to do with money once they get it.
Okung, who earned a business degree at Oklahoma State, is now enrolled in an Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes program at the University of Miami, which includes both on-campus and online work, with the eventual goal of someday going into investing.
“I wasn’t necessarily the first to do it (decide to represent himself) and I hope I’m not the last, either,’’ he said.
“But I do want that if you remember anything, remember that Seattle won a Super Bowl (while he was playing) and that I did this, that I wanted to take the reins of my life and make the decisions, as well.’’