In the two-page memo circulated earlier this week by the NFL to all 32 teams regarding the rules of the looming pre-free-agency negotiating period, only one sentence was emphasized with an underline: “If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.”
This means that Seahawks tackle Russell Okung won’t be allowed to talk to other teams until the free agency period officially opens on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Even then, it won’t be easy for Okung to get a deal done because he doesn’t really know the market or where he fits in it, especially as he recovers from shoulder surgery. And while he plans to work with the NFL Players Association and to hire a consultant on a flat fee (Okung reportedly has hired former NFL agent J.I. Halsell), there’s really no replacement for someone who has the relationships in place with all teams, knows how to determine the contours of the marketplace, and ultimately knows how to bluff (if need be) to get the best possible offer from a team that could be worried about whether another team is about to make a move.
Football players are experts in playing football. While Okung may be infatuated by the prospect of doing his own deal and avoiding a three-percent fee, he’ll never know whether the 100 percent that he finagles on his own is more or less than the 97 percent he could have gotten if he’d been represented by someone who is an expert in being an agent.
The problem is that Okung will never admit that he didn’t get as good of a deal as he could have gotten with an agent, primarily because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Besides, he’s far too invested in proving that his unconventional decision was right that he’ll never entertain the possibility that it may have been wrong.
After studying this industry closely for 15 years, I’m willing to bet more three percent of everything I own that Okung ultimately won’t get on his own what he would have gotten if he’d hired a good, experienced, and connected agent. And I’m happy to explain that directly to Okung or any other player thinking about representing himself, for free.
At least they’ll be getting their money’s worth.