Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Inside the Russell Okung negotiations
By Mike Sando
The contract stalemate between the Seattle Seahawks and first-round choice Russell Okung reached four days Tuesday, a surprise and disappointment for all involved.
Coach Pete Carroll described the situation as "clear-cut" when speaking with reporters after practice.
"It goes by years and years of format," Carroll said. "It’s a clear-cut situation. We are very open and very strong about getting this thing done."
Translation: Hey, it's basically all the agent's fault.
The agent, Peter Schaffer, was not available after Seahawks practice Tuesday, and he won't be available when Carroll says similar things following future practices. That's the advantage NFL teams have in shaping public perceptions. They can send out the head coach, who isn't directly involved in the negotiations, and he can say things that resonate with fans and prey on the player's emotions. Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was especially good at this (he had quite a bit of practice, as the chart demonstrates).
"Every day that goes by, Russell falls farther behind and it's hurting him immensely," Carroll said. "So, hopefully we'll be able to get something done here, but it’s very clear-cut and it does not need to be a difficult situation right here because there’s so much history and pattern to this."
A disciplined organization can wait out players until the players either capitulate, change agents or both. As much as the Seahawks need Okung at left tackle, Okung will reach a point where he needs the team even more. Teams are bigger than players the vast majority of times, and that is the case here.
But everyone loses when a talented player doesn't report in time.
The issues standing between the Seahawks and a deal with Okung are best understood in the context of deals negotiated by other players in the first round.
The Washington Redskins gave $36.7 million in guarantees to Trent Williams, a tackle chosen fourth overall, as part of a six-year deal that could be worth $60 million. The Kansas City Chiefs gave Eric Berry, a safety chosen fifth, $34 million in guarantees as part of a deal that could also be worth $50 million to $60 million over six years. The Cleveland Browns gave Joe Haden, a cornerback chosen seventh, $26 million in guarantees as part of a five-year, $40 million deal.
For Okung, the issues are twofold: Should his deal run five years or six, and how much should that sixth year cost? Okung, as a left tackle, stands to gain more in free agency once his deal ends than Berry is likely to command as a safety. He'll naturally want a five-year deal and if he's going to take a sixth year, he'll want to be paid at a premium offsetting the extra year he'll spend before reaching free agency. But if you're the Seahawks, it's difficult to pay more for the sixth overall choice than the Chiefs paid for the fifth pick.
And so the waiting game continues.
Chart note: There's an asterisk next to the figure for Marcus Tubbs because the team wasn't as concerned about signing him in time for camp. Tubbs' was tending to his ill mother in Texas during the first week of practices.