Russell Okung: By the numbers

Published on August 3, 2010 by     

OK, now before anyone gets all apocalyptic about Russell Okung’s absence from training camp, remember that he has missed a total of three days of training camp.

That’s not unprecedented or even out of the ordinary given the length of time first-round picks often miss before a deal is done.

The concern comes from the fact that so many other first-round picks have signed — 29 of the 32. There are no other deals out there to be negotiated that will have an impact on Okung’s negotiations. The three players chosen in front of him have signed. The two picked behind him have signed.

The concern is that if those deals haven’t bridged the gap between what the Seahawks are offering and what the other side is asking for, then how will that impasse be solved? Does someone have to blink to resolve this staredown?

The chart below lists the terms of the players picked in the immediate vicinity, and what is generally seen as a guidepost are the players picked immediately before him (safety Eric Berry, No. 5 to Kansas City) and the player picked immediately after him (cornerback Joe Haden, No. 7 to Cleveland).

The terms below are believed to be the broad strokes of the deals:

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LT Trent Williams
No. 4 overall, Oklahoma
6 years, $60 million ($36.7 million guaranteed)
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S Eric Berry
No. 5 overall, Tennessee
Six years, $50-$60 million ($34 million guaranteed)
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LT Russell Okung
No. 6 overall, Oklahoma State
Unsigned
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CB Joe Haden
No. 7 overall, Florida
Five years, $42 million ($26 million guaranteed)

Now, should Okung fall between those two deals? It’s a fair question given the difference in position between Okung and Berry. Mark Sanchez got a larger contract as the No. 5 pick with the Jets last year than Tyson Jackson did as the No. 3 overall pick to Kansas City.

But fairness also requires the qualifier that Sanchez is a quarterback, Jackson is a defensive end. Not only that, but Sanchez was a quarterback playing who was going to play in New York. Quarterbacks command a premium in the draft scale.

Matt Ryan negotiated a rookie contract with the Falcons in 2008 as the No. 3 pick, trumping that of the No. 2 pick Chris Long, but again he’s a quarterback.

Left tackles are more valuable than safeties in the economics of today’s NFL, which is ammunition for the argument that a left tackle could command more than a safety despite being picked later. But historically, that argument has not prevailed. In fact, it has never prevailed. One prominent agent not involved in the negotiations between Okung and Seattle spoke about the situation in general terms, and said that no position has commanded a premium according to position in rookie negotiations except for quarterbacks.

Coach Pete Carroll has indicated that the situation is “pretty clear-cut.” While he didn’t specify any terms, the implication is that Seattle’s offer falls somewhere above Haden’s contract at No. 7 and below Berry’s at No. 5.

So what is the range of a deal for Okung, without a position premium, provided a general estimate of what a deal would look like between the agreements for Berry and Haden. A six-year deal would be expected to pay $30 million to $31 million guaranteed, a five-year deal would pay between $28 million and $29 million guaranteed.

So where will the result be? That’s being negotiated between the Seahawks and Okung, but with the financial landscape of the first round identified, it’s possible to paint a picture of the issues at stake.

If Seattle’s offer falls somewhere between the fitted landmarks of the deals signed by the fifth and seventh picks, and it has been kiboshed, this is an attempt to break out of the salary slot and establish a premium for this position. And while that position is considered one of the most valuable in football, it has not been accorded that premium price in the draft.

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