BY Art Thiel 06:01PM 03/18/2016

Thiel: Seahawks didn’t try to top Okung’s deal

Okung’s new contract with the Broncos has zero guaranteed money and is unlikely to be renewed after 2016. It says a lot about how little the Seahawks wanted him back. Such is the churn of roster life in the NFL.

Jermaine Kearse signs an autograph before the coldest game in Minnesota’s football history. The first playoff game last season took a lot out of the Seahawks. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

If I’m Russell Okung’s agent today, I could see getting fired. The new deal for the former Seahawks stalwart with the Denver Broncos gives Okung in 2016 a $1 million workout bonus, a $2 million salary, a $2 million bonus for playing a game, then up to $3 million in incentives, according to USAToday.com.

Zero guaranteed money at signing. No guaranteed money beyond 2016, even though there’s $48 million over the next four seasons that are club options. The Super Bowl-winning Broncos aren’t paying any offensive lineman $12 million in 2017. Only four NFL tackles earned that much in 2015, and none of them played for a good team.

Okung probably needed to stick to his day job.

As Seahawks fans know by now, Okung made the unusual decision months ago to represent himself in free agency, saving the three percent cut typically given agents for negotiating the deal. Not sure the savings were worth it.

It’s hard to say if an agent could have improved the deal, because at least part of Okung’s ambitions were thwarted by injury — a shoulder dislocated in the first quarter of the season’s final game at Carolina.

He told reporters in Denver Thursday that he should be a full go by May or June, and that he was pleased with the outcome of negotiating his own free agency.

“I don’t necessarily know if there would be anything different about (using an agent),” he said. ” I think that other (NFL players), (an agent) is for them. In terms of me, it wasn’t for me. I got the deal that I wanted.”

If what he wanted was to match his Seahawks salary in 2015, he might pull off that feat. By meeting those listed milestones to reach $5 million, plus $3 million in other playing-time incentives, his total for 2016 could be $8 million, about what he made in his sixth and final year with the Seahawks.

But Okung has never played 16 games in a single season.

No one is more aware of that than Seahawks GM John Schneider, who clearly did not make a substantive offer to keep Okung, despite the the fact that RG J.R. Sweezy already had been lost in free agency to Tampa Bay.

By being the Seahawks’ free agent, Okung by rule had only Seattle that he could talk to prior to the opening of free agency March 9. An agent could have helped him understand that there were numerous top-tier tackles on the market, as well several likely to go in the first round of the April draft. And that his reported desire for a multi-year deal around $10 million average annual value was not realistic, even though at 28 he was not old by tackle standards.

But he chose not to seek such advice, which could have included a recommendation to listen carefully to the verb tense coach Pete Carroll chose when discussing Okung in his final press conference after the season.

“He’s been a great factor in our team,” Carroll said. “Really sick to see him get hurt in that game. It’s a very unusual accident that happened.

“He’s been a leader, he’s been stellar for years. Really consistent. He’s been a great kid.”

All verbs in the past tense.

The Seahawks knew he would move on, and were satisfied enough with their chances in the marketplace to not bother with a counter to Denver’s modest offer.

For a guy who gave a lot and drew much respect from his teammates, the exit seemed unworthy. But the NFL is nothing if not cold.

The Seahawks might have afforded what the Broncos paid him; they just didn’t want him any more.

What the Seahawks do want remains unclear. One lineman the Seahawks hired in free agency,  J’Marcus Webb (two years, $5.75 million), has had an undistinguished, six-year  NFL career, mostly at guard.  The other, Bradley Sowell ($1.4 million, one year), seems destined to fill the departed Alvin Bailey’s role as a two-position backup.

The line has three returning vets, C Patrick Lewis, LG Justin Britt and RT Garry Gilliam. All three are likely below the NFL average at their positions. One popular theory is that Gilliam will move to Okung’s old spot, Britt would replace Gilliam, Webb would step in at one guard and second-year pro Mark Glowinski would step up to the other guard.

Whether that amounts to an upgrade is debatable.

For sure, it’s a low-cost solution full of moving parts that suggests another slow start for the offense. With one difference — no C Drew Nowak. The biggest personnel mistake of Carroll’s tenure was in thinking that an undrafted free agent and former defensive lineman could step in for Max Unger and start at the NFL’s most complex line spot.

The coaches knew they blew it a few weeks in, but by the time Lewis replaced Nowak and the Seahawks re-jiggered the passing game, five games had been lost and the Seahawks were destined for the road in the playoffs.

As fate would have it, that meant playing the coldest football game in the history of Minnesota, where cold was invented.

That game took a lot more out of the Seahawks than they will ever admit, leaving them without an edge in Charlotte, bringing about the end of the Quest for The Lost Yard.

So getting off to a better seasonal start is likely a priority. They still have time for upgrades, either via free agency, trades or the draft. It’s doubtful the Seahawks have a set lineup in mid-March.

In fact, set rosters don’t happen with the Seahawks, or any NFL team.

The Seahawks’ roster churn is so steadily intense that they have turned over 62 percent of those who played in the 43-8 win over the Broncos is Super Bowl XLVIII, including all of the offensive line.

Below is the roster of the Super Bowl participants. In red are 28 of the 45 who departed, and their fates:

Pos. Offense Pos. Defense Skinny
WR D. Baldwin LDE C. Avril Both starters
LT R. Okung LDT M. Bennett FA to DEN March 17
LG J. Carpenter RDT C. McDonald Carpenter to NYJ, McDonald to TB
C M. Unger RDE C. Clemons Unger to NO, Clemons to JAX
RG J.R. Sweezy OLB K.J. Wright FA Sweezy to TB
RT B. Giacomini MLB B. Wagner Giacomini to NYJ
T A. Bailey CB W. Thurmond Bailey to CLE, Thurmond to NYG
TE Z. Miller LCB R. Sherman Failed physical
WR G. Tate RCB B. Maxwell Tate to DET (’14), Maxwell to PHI (’15)
QB R. Wilson SS K. Chancellor Wilson, Chancellor starters
RB M. Lynch FS E. Thomas Retired following ’15
K S. Hauschka P J. Ryan Both starters
Pos. Substitutes Pos. Substitutes Skinny
WR P. Harvin CB J. Lane Traded to Jets, 2014
WR J. Kearse CB D. Shead Kearse, Shead  starters
RB R. Turbin FS C. Maragos FA Turbin to IND, FA Maragos to PHI
FB M. Robinson LB B. Irvin Robinson retired, FA Irvin to OAK
FB D. Coleman LB M. Smith Coleman FA, FA Smith to OAK
C L. Jeanpierre LB H. Farwell Farwell retired after 2014
G P. McQuistan LB M. Morgan FA to CLE; Morgan FA
TE L. Willson DE R. Bryant FA to JAX
WR R. Lockette DT B. Mebane Lockette injured; Mebane FA to SD
LS C. Gresham DE O. Schofield FA Schofield to ATL
DE T. McDaniel FA to TB

YourThoughts

  • The Cane

    There is a whole lot more going on with the Okung situation than either you are letting on or that you know. If indeed Okung was yesterday’s news as early as Carroll’s season ending press conference, before the Seahawks even knew if Okung would, for example, be forced to come back to the team begging for any kind of decent deal, that means the team wanted to wash its hands of him period. And if the team knew that Okung was gone for sure by his own volition, that also says a lot. Perhaps the same attitude that led him to decide to represent himself has other manifestations as well that the team found difficult to deal with even in a purported “leader” and “great kid.”

    • art thiel

      I’m not sure about the business relationship between Okung and the club. He’s a bright guy who finished his degree at Okla. St. and is independent-minded, so that by definition is a small threat to any NFL club. My sense is the Seahawks will handle that better than most.

      But in a contract negotiation where a player reps himself and hears the club recite his shortcomings, it’s guaranteed painful and potentially disruptive. It’s why clubs hate to have an athlete repping himself. I can see Okung becoming hurt/indignant, but I don’t know that to be true.

    • SeaRaays

      This is all about his injuries. Not his person. He valued his service at high dollar value. Most pro athletes have a difficult time taking a pay cut from their original team. Look at Lofa he left instead of taking a pay cut. In turn he never played again. So did Hass. Thank God.
      Okung signed a bad deal. Most teams may be worried about his shoulder and health. Seahawks may have offered the same or even a bit more the first year…Yet it was a pay cut. They could not promise him more with a straight face and integrity. You promise a player a prove me deal and he grew in your organization. You need to do the right thing. Denver will not. They are fighting the cap looking for a bargain. Elway has a car dealership.

  • Jamo57

    Meanwhile Ciara is googling life insurance policies.

    • 1coolguy

      Right on! RW must be pounding JS and Pete’s desks about now, saying “So my scrambling has saved our axxes the past 4 years, now it’s time for you guys to come through with some PROTECTION!”

    • art thiel

      Tell her to wait until Labor Day weekend.

    • Patriciajbaker2


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  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Considering he was on the 2013 team that administered to the Broncos one of the most lopsided defeats in the Super Bowl era it seems a tad strange he will have a horse on his helmet (if he is lucky) next season.

  • 1coolguy

    One theory about Okung taking the Denver deal is he wanted out of Seattle, where his unit, the Oline, is treated as an afterthought. As a professional, it is very difficult to be the top performer and see the others so-so and constantly turned over. There has been no consistency to the Oline, coming and goings, and frankly a game-by-game approach that after awhile, if I were Okung, I would want to look at an excellent team that valued its’ Oline. Denver looks like it fits that bill.

    • art thiel

      I think that notion falls into the fan-driven, grassy knoll category.

  • Bruce McDermott

    This theory is plausible, although it does run directly counter to several reports that the Hawks made a “major” offer to Okung to begin the process. So, those reports may have been untrue, or that offer may have been pulled at some point. I also saw a tweet from a local source often well informed on the Hawks that claimed that Okung gave the Hawks a chance to match the Bronco’s offer, and they declined. If true, that certainly suggests that the Hawks indeed decided to move on. But even if that tweet is not true, $5-$8 million for a starting LT is not out of line at all–probably on the cheap side, in fact. Hawks could easily have matched that, so long as that match included the same team option after the first year.

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    • SeaRaays

      it is the second part of the deal that Seahawks with honesty could not do to a player. Promise him 42 million if he had a good season. Broncos will cut and want to renegotiate. I think Seahawks offered 6 mill with reachable incentives for a contract next year. Under his last contract and that always makes a player feel dissed.

  • Paul Harmening

    Nice chart. Helps to see clearly. Like to see more of those at appropriate times.

    Now that Okung has done it…5-1 odds it’s his 1st and last effort to be his own agent again, that is if he really is the smart guy everyone says he is. Haven’t seen that yet though.

    Not that it matters much, but couldn’t they have gotten Webb for a little less? Or was Cable intrigued with his size and his own ego to do magic. Webb certainly didn’t show up that much for Oakland.

  • rosetta_stoned

    It’s often said a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client. It appears that applies to sports agents, as well.

  • Dick/Johnson

    Even with an agent, would Russ O. have fared any better?
    The Seahawks wouldn’t even match the Denver low-ball.

  • Warchild_70

    It appears we sill start with a patchwork quilt for the O line again! L S Gresham should be kept he has been steady these years why loose him? R W must be rolling his eyes and attending prayer services weekly with this outcome. Maybe there is someone in the draft that has the attention of the front office? Any who this is too early to play the Amazing Carnac. GO HAWKS!!!

  • John M

    John and Pete could shock the world by taking a tackle in R-1, but it looks like the same ol’ plan: Bring in a bunch of also-rans, FA, and mid to low draft picks and tell Cable to make em into No. 1′s . . .

  • notaboomer

    pete carroll has been a good coach. really he has just done a stellar job.

  • Sonics79

    Honestly, I think the loss of Alvin Bailey hurts more than Okung. Bailey was pretty versatile, and Okung was just plain hurt 25% of the time.
    It just makes me miss Walter Jones. 9 holding penalties in 13 years.