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Russell Okung contract: Details of Okung's deal emerge, and it looks like a Broncos-friendly structure

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Did Russell Okung's self-representation backfire?

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In addition to being one of the top offensive linemen on the market this year, there was a major sub-plot there in that Russell Okung was representing himself as his own agent.

He posted a statement on Facebook a couple weeks ago detailing his decision.

"The days of the oblivious athlete are over. Long gone are the days of the traditional sports figure, now replaced by a sharper and smarter candidate. This process will be hard but memorable. I initially thought the decision to represent myself in upcoming contract negotiations was solely for me. To my surprise, a number of players reached out to me. They shared the same stories I have. They too, pondered the alternatives to agent representation yet remain undecided because of the uncertainty of their capacity to do so. I refuse to partake in such doubt..."

The takeaway for me on this was that Okung was now facing even more pressure because the eyes of the league's players were upon him, and as the first marquee player to represent himself, there'd be the expectation that he'd go out and get himself a killer deal, set the precedent, and blaze a path so others could follow suit. It doesn't look like that has happened. In fact, the details of the contract don't reflect a strong market for Okung, and are pretty team friendly to the Broncos.

The initial reports on Russell Okung's deal said that he'd be earning $10.6M average per year and could get up to $12M per year with incentives. That seemed like a lot, but as often happens, those APY numbers were wildly misleading.

In reality, Okung's contract is a team-friendly one-year, $5M "prove it deal" in 2016 that could go as high as $8M with incentives, and then the contract has a four-year team option for 2017-2020 that would make him a very well-paid left tackle at $12M per year APY and $20.5M in guaranteed money.

But, a lot has to happen in the meantime for the Broncos to pick up that team option -- he has to play well, he has to stay healthy, and the Broncos have to decide that he fits. In fact, Okung's contract even leaves the Broncos an "out" if they decide they do not want him on their roster in 2016.

Why? The deal does not pay Okung anything at signing, with no signing bonus or upfront guaranteed money. This is pretty rare, I believe.

Said Mike Florio:

As previously reported, it's a one-year, $5 million deal with an option on the rest of the contract.

But it's not even a $5 million deal for one year. He has a $1 million workout bonus, a $2 million base salary, and a $2 million roster bonus tied to being on the 53-man roster for any one game. So, basically, the Broncos are giving Okung $1 million to participate in the offseason program, with an option before Week One to pay him another $4 million to actually play for them in 2016.

A lack of a signing bonus is not player-friendly and probably not the greatest precedent to set while representing yourself. But, that's all almost surely going to be money in Okung's pocket soon enough, because other than the fact that it just looks bad for Okung's negotiating skills, he's highly likely to make it through the offseason program and play for the Broncos in 2016.

The real turning point is not this season, but what happens after next year.

Per Florio:

The Broncos have until the first day of the 2017 league year to exercise the option for 2017. If they do, Okung gets a $1 million option bonus, an $8 million roster bonus, a $2 million guaranteed base salary, and up to $1.5 million in per-game roster bonuses for 2017. His base salary of $9.5 million for 2018 also would become fully guaranteed if the option is exercised, making it a $19.5 million decision for the Broncos after the 2016 season.

If Okung's option does get picked up next year, the deal will ultimately end up looking good for Okung and he'll have bet on himself and won, but right now a lack of any guaranteed money is a pretty bad look for a guy trying to blaze the path of self-representation. In the court of public opinion -- and maybe in the eyes of his fellow players -- the Broncos (and by default, every other team) won that negotiation. Okung's injury history and a lukewarm tackle market this year are also to blame.

Apart from all that, it's pretty curious that the Seahawks were unwilling to meet or beat the one-year, $5M (up to $8M) prove it deal up front. Maybe they didn't want to go with the team option style, maybe they just didn't see him as worth what he's getting from Denver in 2016. Either way, according to Bob Condotta, Seattle didn't even have an offer for Okung on the table at the end when Okung signed with Denver.