Many argue that the NFLPA has conducted a rather extensive campaign to make contract advisors superfluous over the past couple years. One of the main elements of this campaign has been the free agency of OT Russell Okung. Okung made it clear going into free agency that he would do it without an agent, and he fearlessly entered into this ‘experiment’ with tools provided by the players association.
Obviously, this was met with consternation by veteran agents as well as newer ones who saw this as a transparent attempt by the union to rid itself of contract advisors and the fees they charge. So when Okung’s turned out to be far less than the flashy, big-bucks deal that some forecasted, critics came out in force.
With this in mind, we reached out to J.I. Halsell, who assisted Okung during the free agency process. J.I. is no rookie at this. Not only is he a former agent with one of the most prestigious firms in the business (Priority Sports, which has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta), and not only is J.I. formerly the Redskins’ cap specialist, but he’s probably the only guy on the Internet who’s dedicated to making the cap easier to digest and understand for the rank-and-file fan. He deals with cap questions on his Twitter account, and also runs a new site called NFLContractMetrics.com, which you’ll be hearing more about in this space in the near future.
We asked J.I. several questions related to the deal Okung signed, and we’ll have those tomorrow, but today, we wanted to focus solely on the deal. With that in mind, we asked this: What are the strengths of the deal? What are the strongest benefits for Okung?
His response is below.
Russ’ road to free agency was complicated by the shoulder injury he suffered in the Seahawks’ playoff loss to the Panthers, and it was a significant obstacle in hammering out a deal. That said, while we would have preferred a long-term deal, we expected that we were going to have to do a one-year deal, and then hit the market again next year. The Broncos’ offer of a one-year deal with a base value of $5M (with the opportunity to earn up to $8M total) was the best offer we had from a total value perspective.
A lot has been made of the fact that this one-year deal has no money guaranteed at signing. Other one-year offers made to Russ had money guaranteed, but not the same opportunity from a total value standpoint, so as we evaluated the Broncos’ offer, Russ and I were comfortable with his ability to earn the $1M workout bonus in Denver’s deal and accordingly viewed it as a “practical” guarantee. So we viewed it as a one-year deal worth $5M with a practical guarantee of $1M on a club where there was mutual, strong interest.
With us feeling comfortable with the terms of the one-year portion of the deal, when Denver expressed interest in the “2-in-1” contract structure (a structure that had also been proposed by other suitors with significantly less money), if Russ were to take on that structure, then it was going to have to make sense financially. The deal proposed would be for one year with a club option for a multi-year deal thereafter. Russ viewed the option to add a four-year deal from 2017-2020 as a top-tier offensive tackle contract.
Denver’s offer was worth $12M per year, and would pay $20.5M fully guaranteed at the time the option was exercised, as well as $35.5M of the value in the first three years. When I viewed deals on the market at all positions whose ‘paper years’ (meaning without consideration of ‘old years’ already under contract) were four years in length, less than four paid more than $30M in the first three years, and only one paid more than $20.5M guaranteed. So again, with that perspective, Russ felt comfortable with the four-year deal part of this 2-in-1 structure, because even with the cap increasing and with a good 2016 season, Russ would be hard pressed to find a four-year deal that would pay to the same levels as the four-year deal contained in the Denver deal.
Whether or not Denver exercises the option remains to be seen, and will largely be dependent on Russ’ 2016 “prove it” performance. If they choose to not exercise the option, then Russ got the best one-year deal he could, and will hit the market in 2017 as he originally thought he would under his injury circumstances. If Denver exercises the option, then Russ gets a four-year deal that, relative to other pure four-year deals, is exceptional.
More from J.I. tomorrow.