Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks Need to Agree on Voidable Year

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Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks Need to Agree on Voidable Year
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It’s pretty clear that the thing holding up an agreement between the Seahawks and left tackle Russell Okung is the length of the contract, and the way to get around that is to make the sixth year voidable through excellent play by Okung.

Typically, agents want shorter contracts so their players can reach free agency sooner. The Seahawks surely are pushing for six years, while Okung’s agent, Peter Schaffer, is probably holding out for five.

The top 16 players in the first round can be signed for up to six years, while players chosen in the bottom 16 can be signed only for five years.

Of this year’s top 16, only three have signed six-year contracts, while 10 have signed five-year deals and three, including Okung, are unsigned.

The only ones who have signed six-year deals are No. 1 pick Sam Bradford, No. 4 pick Trent Williams, and No. 5 pick Eric Berry.

Thus, it appears Okung, the sixth pick, is right on the five-or-six cutoff.

Schaffer has most likely pointed out the dearth of six-year deals, and he also may have pointed out that the Seahawks signed their other first-rounder, No. 14 Earl Thomas, for five years, even though he fell within the top 16 and could have been signed for six years.

Schaffer might also be using the 2009 No. 6 pick, Andre Smith, as an example. After a long holdout last summer, Smith signed a four-year deal with Cincinnati, although the Bengals can tack on two more years after the 2010 season.

The Seahawks surely have used the same argument they used last year, when they insisted on a six-year deal with linebacker Aaron Curry, the No. 4 pick. And they also may have pointed out that the other top-six tackle, Williams, signed a six-year deal.

If length is indeed the holdup, the sides could easily fix that with a voidable year. A base six-year deal could be voided to five if, for example, Okung makes the Pro Bowl at least once or plays at least 75 percent of the snaps in his first four seasons. Basically, make him earn the voided year.

The money should not be an issue. Williams, Berry, and Haden all have deals that reportedly average $10 million a year.

Williams’ guaranteed money breaks down to $6.1 million per year, Berry’s is $5.67 million, and Haden’s is $5.2 million.

That means Okung’s guaranteed cash will be somewhere between $5.2 million and $5.6 million, so perhaps $32 million in a six-year deal or $27 million in a five-year contract.

If the voided year is used, the Seahawks could include a clause requiring Okung to buy back the sixth year for the amount of the prorated guaranteed money.

It’s hard to believe both sides will quibble over the sixth year for very long. The Seahawks did business with Schaffer earlier this offseason when they signed another of his clients, guard Ben Hamilton.

This business should be wrapped up pretty soon, too.

Meanwhile, at least the Seahawks have one of their first-rounders under contract. Thomas’ deal, $12.3 million guaranteed in a five-year deal worth $21.1 million, is exactly what we expected .

Speaking of things we expected … By all reports, Matt Hasselbeck is in complete command of the offense, while Charlie Whitehurst is still struggling and J.P. Losman is as inconsistent as ever.

Ever since Whitehurst was acquired in the one-sided deal with San Diego, there has been no question among savvy Seahawk observers that Hasselbeck will be Seattle’s starter in 2010.

Carroll and Jeremy Bates like him a lot. They want to be successful immediately, and they know Hasselbeck is their best chance to do that. The key, as everyone knows, is for Hasselbeck to stay healthy, and he should do that behind an improved line.

The hope, as it was last year, is that Hasselbeck plays like he did in 2007 and makes all of the Hassel-haters sit down and shut up.

One guy who could help Hasselbeck is recently signed guard Chester Pitts, although Carroll revealed that the 31-year-old veteran could take a couple of months to be ready as he works back from microfracture knee surgery.

Pitts had the surgery just 10 months ago, and it usually takes a couple of years to come back from that invasive procedure (an older Walter Jones did not come back from it).

Carroll said he wants to see Pitts play in the preseason, but it would not be surprising to see Pitts open the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and miss the first six games, as Marcus Trufant did last year.

Carroll seems like he is willing to wait.

“We're very pleased to have him,” Carroll told reporters. “He’s a very important part of this offensive line unit. He’s a big asset for us when he gets back out here.”

One guy who decided not to get back out there is Sean Morey, the former Pro Bowl special-teamer the Seahawks signed in March.

The concussion-prone, 34-year-old veteran decided to retire before camp, and that’s actually fortuitous news for the Seahawks.

With Morey gone before even playing a snap, he won’t count as a signed free agent, and the Seahawks are now back in line for a fourth- or fifth-round compensatory pick next year.

Among the free agents who count in that equation, the Seahawks have added only one (Hamilton) and have lost two (receiver Nate Burleson and defensive lineman Cory Redding).

With Burleson hauling in $5 million per year from Detroit, that likely will net Seattle a fifth-rounder (possibly a fourth) in next year’s draft.

It would help make up for that gratuitous 2011 third-rounder the Seahawks gave up for Whitehurst.

Speaking of draft picks and trades, the release of Robert Henderson means the Seahawks essentially traded guard Rob Sims for fifth-round safety Kam Chancellor.

The Lions also got a seventh-rounder in that deal, which they used on N.C. State defensive end Willie Young.

Find out how the Seahawks are depending on player-coaches in this camp , see why Pete Carroll is better prepared to succeed  coming from college than Dennis Erickson was and read why Tod Leiweke's tenure was a success, all Outside The Press Box.  

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