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.

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Tags: Agent Contract Left Tackle NFL Draft Pete Carroll Peter Schaffer Preseason Rookie Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks Training Camp

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