Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung has joined a small, but growing club of NFL players who don’t feel the need to be represented by an agent. In the final year of his rookie deal, he’s going to become a free agent when the 2015 NFL season concludes.
Penning a thoughtful column on Derek Jeter’s popular blog The Player’s Tribune, Okung laid out his reasoning for dropping his agent. Among the highlights was an interesting perspective involving the real need journeyman players have for agents, given the way agents know how to sell a player who isn’t a star.
But from Okung’s perspective, having proven himself on the field and having done hours of research about how to promote himself, giving an agent a cut of his earnings just seems unnecessary.
“And because I know I’m more than adequate without representation, I’m betting on myself,” Okung wrote. “I know my worth. I can look at the market and go directly to a team without an agent and tell that team my worth. And I can do so with confidence because I’ve done my research, I’ve educated myself and I’ve questioned the answers I’ve been given. And when it comes to reviewing the details of my next deal, I’ll hire an expert — a lawyer or a sports attorney who understands the dynamic of football contracts — to read the paperwork. I’ll negotiate a one-time flat fee that isn’t dependent on the size of my salary.”
The mammoth lineman gave a shoutout to the NFLPA on Twitter Tuesday morning for giving him the invaluable assistance he needs to successfully navigate the world of NFL contracts:
Thanks to the @NFLPA for immediate assistance in providing the resources I'll need to move forward. Players, the tools are there for you too
— russ (@RussellOkung) July 21, 2015
Citing athlete/businessmen before him like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, Okung has realized it’s not impossible to delve into the business side of the NFL. All it takes is desire and dedication to uncover this truth.
And he’s certainly not the only player who has realized the benefit of keeping the money he earns in his pocket, rather than doling out a percentage to an agent. Andre Johnson was a trailblazer in this regard, as his uncle and a lawyer handled his rookie deal with the Houston Texans. New York Giants rookie offensive tackle Erik Flowers negotiated his contract this summer without one, following in the footsteps of Matt Elam, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens a couple years ago.
Players are beginning to wake up to the fact that a lawyer (or team of lawyers) can do just as good a job sifting through the minutiae of a contract as any agent. Furthermore, they are starting to understand that they have a tremendous amount of leverage, provided they can produce on the field.
Those two facts combined are a powerful tool that gives them the ability to make the most out of their playing days, without relying on someone else to represent their best interests. Educated men who brave this new world are the best equipped to represent their own best interests—not some agent who is only out for his cut of the profits.
When healthy, the former No. 6 overall pick is a dominant offensive tackle who specializes in run-blocking. His career has been somewhat marred by injuries, but given his size and track record of productivity, he’s definitely going to attract suitors if the Seahawks allow him to hit the open market after the season.
After all, 6-foot-5, 300-plus pound offensive tackles don’t grow on trees. His value is significant, and some team will pay a pretty penny for his services.
Time will tell if this growing trend ends up becoming the norm for star players in the NFL. Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and Justin Houston all inked massive new deals this past week with the assistance of an agent, and it’s always hard to break free of tradition.
We wish Okung the best in his current endeavor. He’s advocating others to pursue the same path, and if he is successful in negotiating a favorable deal for himself then more will certainly follow in his footsteps.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports