Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung is known for representing himself, forgoing an agent to earn more money on his contracts.
With Okung hitting free agency this offseason, he once again will be without an agent, handling negotiations on his own.
On Wednesday, CBS’s Jason La Canfora reported that Okung emailed all 32 teams (including his own Seahawks, evidently) to inform them that he’s undergoing shoulder surgery and will be ready in five months.
La Canfora also reported that Okung expressed an interest in speaking to teams about free agency “ASAP” before heading into surgery.
While Okung’s effort is commendable, it’s also a violation of rules.
As La Canfora noted, Okung isn’t a free agent until March 9, and the NFL’s non-tampering window isn’t until March 12, when agents and players can officially speak.
And as ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio points out, according to NFL rules, unless the Seahawks gave Okung permission to reach out, the other 31 teams are required to inform the Seahawks that Okung is reaching out to them. Here’s the official policy:
“If a club is contacted by a player (or his representative) who is under contract to or whose negotiating rights are held by another club, and such player had not been given permission to deal with other clubs, or such player is not in a permissible negotiating period under the terms of an operative collective bargaining agreement, then the contacted club is prohibited from talking or otherwise dealing with the player or his representative, and the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player’s rights.”
If the Seahawks were unaware of Okung’s emails to teams, it could become an awkward situation if teams follow the rules and reach out to Seattle to inform them that Okung wants to talk free agency.
Florio argues that this is where an agent could have helped Okung — an agent could reach out to teams without leaving a paper trail, as Okung did with emails. It’d be a rule violation, but there’d be less evidence of it.
Tampering, as Florio notes, happens all the time, but Okung just made it quite obvious, since by NFL rules, he’s not supposed to talk to teams about free agency before the period begins. Now, the NFL has obvious proof of tampering, and Okung could be punished, perhaps with a fine, while other teams, if they respond could also be fined or even docked draft picks.
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