Russell Okung Acts as Own Agent. Does He Have Fool for a Client?

Russell Okung
Dan Leberfeld

Whoever said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client,” never said it loud enough to Russell Okung.

Offensive tackle Russell Okung represented himself in free agency, and landed an underwhelming contract from the Denver Broncos. On Thursday, a source (probably Okung — it certainly wasn’t an agent) leaked to ESPN’s Josina Anderson that the tackle was finalizing a five-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth $10.6 million per year.

That sounds great on paper, but it’s very misleading. The franchise guarantees only $5 million, and Okung can make up to $3 million more in incentives.

Yes, Okung signed a five-year deal that could pay him as much as $56 million. However, Denver can opt out of the contract after the 2016 season. For Okung to get the last four years and $48 million, the Broncos must pick up his option in 2017.

So, Denver can easily move on after one season.

“It’s a bit intricate, but I thought it was the best deal for me moving forward,” Okung said. “Denver is the place I want to be for the long haul.”

Why? Denver lost their top two quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler) this offseason, along with defensive standouts, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. Journeyman Mark Sanchez, quite prone to turnovers, currently reigns atop their QB depth chart.

Hey, John Elway is a terrific GM, and could make the defending Super Bowl champions great again, but right now, the arrow points down. Why this location so appealed to Okung, especially with a substandard contract, perplexes.

Okung left a Seattle team with a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson.

While Seattle doesn’t have a lot of salary cap space, they certainly could have matched this pedestrian offer. Did they get that chance? It doesn’t sound that way.

“I’m proud to say I stuck with my initial promise: I bet on myself,” Okung said.

You could make a strong argument he bet on himself and lost.

When he met with Seattle early in free agency, there were probably bridges burnt. Contract negotiations can get nasty.

There are blunt conversations about a player’s shortcomings. GMs say negative things about the player (to bring the price down), they often won’t say to his face. It’s good to have a buffer, an agent, so bridges aren’t burned between the organization and player.

What if Seattle GM John Schneider said to Okung in a meeting, “We love you Russell, but you get injured too much and jump off-sides a lot.”

That can lead to hurt feelings. It’s easier to say that stuff to an agent.

Okung probably should have used an agent. He made a dubious call to represent himself.

But then again, Okung thinks the American Dream is dead, so this modest contract might not surprise him.

In December, Okung said, “American cultural optimism is one of the greatest lies ever told. So many people will never experience their dreams because there are far too many barriers of entry they can’t do anything about.”

But he does think Barack Obama is trying to do something about this by “actively working to expand capital and invest in untapped talent across America.”

The 94 million Americans out of the labor force might disagree with that. Maybe Okung will get the last laugh and the Broncos will pick up his option next spring. But him remaining in the labor force for long, at least in Denver, looks like a long shot.