Russell Okung: Who Should Be Blamed?

Seahawks fans are obviously frustrated that Russell Okung is still a no-show at training camp. Without any news, it is hard to be optimistic that Okung will arrive anytime soon.

Less than two weeks from now, the Seattle Seahawks play their first exhibition game against the Tennessee Titans. Russell Okung needs to be in camp.

But who is to blame for his absence?

Should we blame the Seattle Seahawks, who are unwilling to relinquish an additional year from Okung’s potential contract?

Should Okung, who is only 22 years old, sacrifice future dollars and do whatever it takes to report to camp? Is he selfish for allowing his agent to drag out negotiations?

And what about Peter Schaffer, Okung’s agent?  It is obvious he is working in the best interests of his client, but doesn’t prolonged absence hurt Okung’s progression and development?

I think everyone has their own opinion. For fans, it is hard to understand the difference between an additional year here or a few million dollars there. Sacrificing a million dollars or a year from a long-term deal seems meaningless when you’re already compensating an unproven athlete with tens of millions of dollars.

I don’t really blame anyone in particular – the system is broken.

Russell Okung’s agent, Peter Schaffer, has an interesting take on negotiating contracts for his clients. Here are a few excerpts from a 2008 interview with Schaffer by the Denver Post:

‘Every contract has its own unique issues and challenges, whether it’s a seventh-round pick or a top-10 player. You have to treat everyone like it’s Barry Sanders because it’s their career, and you have to put their own individual stamp on their deal to put them in the best situation . . .’

‘It’s interesting on an intellectual level because there are so many moving parts: Is it a three-, four- or five-year deal? . . . What about incentives? . . . Can a player reach them? Do you want the player to stay with a team? If he’s a nickel back on a team, do you do a shorter deal so he can go to another team and be a starter? You want to look at a contract, not only as it being good today, but also it being good tomorrow or the next year, too . . .’

‘We’re not only looking for first-rounders, we’re looking for guys who can have long careers. Unless you’re a top-10 pick, it’s really the second contract that’s going to make or break the player’s career and set them up for life. That’s what we’re trying to do, set up as many players for life as possible, so you want the guys who will stay focused and stay out of trouble and keep their eyes on the prize. ‘

It is obvious that long-term viability is more important to Schaffer than short-term development. Okung, as a talented young prospect, should have a very good career in the National Football League. From Schaffer’s perspective, Okung should have an opportunity to secure more money in the future (free agency).

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Schaffer’s priorities don’t guarantee Okung will report to camp anytime soon.

Shaun Dolence: [email protected]
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Tags: Agent Contract Left Tackle NFL Draft Pete Carroll Peter Schaffer Preseason Rookie Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks Training Camp

  • Hawker

    Okung needs to get his fat unproven ass in camp and not worry about getting that extra $ to buy another bouncing car. The Hawks should just donate that money to casinos, jewelry stores, and benz dealerships. Thats where it all goes anyway

  • tristan

    Nexyyears rookie cap is gonna do great things

  • Jimmy4Eyes

    If he finally decides to “settle” for millions of dollars he better be ready to earn it. I for one am ready to boo his prima donna ass every time he gets beat. Too bad I thought we had a good pick there, looks like another overpaid, underperforming athlete will be in the mix. Where is his agent gonna be when he is getting blown up by NFL D-lineman???? Laughing all the way to the BANK.

  • Jim Kelly

    Top ten picks are expected to perform at a high level for 10+ years. The reality is that this doesn’t always happen. About 50% are busts. A seventh round pick that sticks in the league for several years, even as a fringe player, is considered a success. A top 10 pick that has the exact same career would be a bust. Most top 10 picks don’t live up to the club’s, or their own billing. Those that do receive the second lucrative contract. Those that don’t might not even get a second contract.

    Personally, I’d look at it that second way. I’d want to get as many years as I possibly could. I’d like to have that added stability. I’d write in a clause that would allow me to opt out if I out preformed my contract. An example would be for Okung to get three pro bowls in his first six years. But the way Peter Schaffer approaches it, he expects Okung to have three pro bowls by the conclusion of Okung’s third season. Even Walter Jones didn’t do that.

    Okung does have the added advantage of OTAs. This might be the reason that he’s okay with holding out. It gave him a head start, but it was missing one key ingredient: hitting. NFL teams don’t truly hit until the pads go on. Okung hasn’t had that. He needs to get in so he can do more than just go through the motions, and to actually experience how much harder that the NFL is than college could ever be.

    I get so tired of “big name” rookies getting a sense of entitlement. They talk about wanting to take care of their families for the rest of their lives. If that were true, then they’d sign the longer contract. It’s a business, I understand that, but it still frustrates me that we (the organization, fans, friends, family, and agents) build up these kids to the point that they think it’s not only okay, but expected that they act this way.

    There’s way too much to say about this topic, so I’ll mercifully end this diatribe by hoping he just gets in asap.

  • adam

    The point that Schaffer and Okung are missing is the team “CAN’T” give in or it sets them up for failure and hassels on future negotiations as well. The price has been set, end of story. The details shouldn’t take that long to figure out. Additionally, Okung looks like a total tool as well. It makes you wonder what he cares more about, football or his bank account.