Russell Wilson’s marathon negotiations have received the most attention, as the quarterback reportedly seeks to be the highest-paid player in the game. On top of that, Michael Bennett has been grouching about his deal, just one year after signing it; Bruce Irvin bitched about not having his 2016 option picked up and talked about playing in Atlanta next year; and the Hawks also are talking with Bobby Wagner about a contract that could end up making him the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL.
Now we can add to that cauldron of contract conundrums the news that Okung plans to represent himself. As part of what he eloquently wrote on The Players’ Tribune, he said: “Before I became a free agent, I decided to free my agent.”
Basically, Okung thinks he can get the same value as an agent could, meaning he has no reason to pay an agent the 3 percent commission.
“I’m betting on myself,” he said. “I know my worth. I can look at the market and go directly to a team without an agent and tell that team my worth. And I can do so with confidence because I’ve done my research, I’ve educated myself and I’ve questioned the answers I’ve been given. And when it comes to reviewing the details of my next deal, 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.”
It remains to be seen whether Okung can elicit the kind of offer he wants, which leads to the primary question: Just what is Okung’s value?
His rookie deal has been paying him about $8 million a year, which ranks him 10th among the league’s offensive tackles right now. He might think he can get $10 million a year, which would put him in the top five. But the Seahawks definitely would not pay that, especially when he has played in just 74 percent of Seattle’s games during his five seasons and has one of the worst sack/penalty ratios among the league’s top-paid tackles over the past three years (see chart).
Seattle certainly would not want to pay him any more than he is making now and — considering their other contract issues — might not offer more than $7 million (perhaps with play/performance incentives that could drive it higher).
Okung might not even be worth that much. This offseason, the San Diego Chargers paid $28 million over four years to left tackle King Dunlap, who has been more dependable over the past three years and accumulated fewer combined sacks and penalties per game than Okung (see chart).
Jared Veldheer received $7 million a year from Arizona last offseason, and he has been the same player as Okung over the past three years — both playing 37 games (77.1 percent), with similar sack and penalty numbers.
So, Okung’s value appears to be no higher than $7 million a year. But he surely won’t see it that way. The other question then will be: Will some team agree with him?
Even at $7 million, the Hawks might not be able to afford him anyway. As we pointed out recently, if the Hawks have to use the franchise tag on Wilson next year, it will preclude them from re-signing any big-money free agents (Wagner excluded). That means Okung and Irvin would be out.