Christian Petersen/GettySeattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung is known for representing himself, forgoing an agent to earn more money on his contracts.
Entering this offseason a free agent, Okung will again be without an agent, handling negotiations on his own.
On Wednesday, CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported that Okung emailed all 32 teams (including the Seahawks, evidently) to inform them that he was undergoing shoulder surgery and would be ready in five months.
La Canfora also reported that Okung expressed an interest in speaking with 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, when agents and players can officially discuss business, doesn’t begin until March 12.
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 other teams, it could become an awkward situation.
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 would still be a rule violation, but there would be less evidence of it.
Tampering, as Florio notes, happens all the time, but Okung just made it quite obvious. Now the NFL has obvious proof of tampering and Okung could be punished, perhaps with a fine, while teams that respond could also be fined or even docked draft picks.