Russell Okung, the last remaining rookie to agree terms this off season, has completed a 6-year deal with the Seahawks. It’s worth a reported $58m with around $30m in guarantees. It represents a significant increase (up $9m from $21m) in guaranteed money that Andre Smith (OT, Bengals) received as the 6th overall pick last year. Okung missed six total days of training camp. The rapidity with which the other first round picks agreed terms put Okung on an island, but he actually missed 16 days less than Chris McIntosh (OT, drafted 2000) and two days less than Marcus Tubbs (DT, 2004) and Aaron Curry (LB, 2009) when they were drafted by Seattle. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that Okung makes up for lost time now. When Seahawks Draft Blog’s resident scout Kyle Rota looked at the tape last year, he voiced several concerns with Okung’s technique:
“I actually have huge concerns about Okung’s ability to play left tackle in the NFL. He lacks the anchor to consistently hold up against stronger DEs (and I really worry about what a 3-4 DE could do to him), and often gets pushed backwards. He also really struggled to stay in front of the more athletic defenders I saw him against, allowing even mediocre NFL talent like Nick Reed to turn the corner against him a couple of times. To me, he’s good at sliding his feet and has long arms, but when facing a good athlete who is able to keep those arms off of him (like Brian Orakpo, Nick Reed, or Greg Hardy) Okung really struggles – he doesn’t have the athleticism to fall back on when his arms don’t land, and he doesn’t get his hands into his man’s pads regularly enough when he plays good competition.” – Kyle Rota
Okung finds himself on a team owning one of the best offensive line coaches in the business – Alex Gibbs. That is a huge benefit for his long term career ambitions. It’s also a short term nightmare because the Gibbs zone blocking scheme is one of the most demanding and difficult to pick up. It’s tough both physically and mentally. As things stand, Okung is almost a week behind. As the already-anointed day one starter, he needs to learn and improve whilst also showing a level of performance. That’s the pressure that comes when you have $30m in your back pocket.
On a side note, the Seattle Seahawks now have at least $72m tied up in a linebacker, an offensive tackle and a safety. Aaron Curry ($34m), Russell Okung ($30m) and Earl Thomas ($12m) are all earning premium money as Seattle’s expensive trio of top-15 draft picks the last two years. All three will have to play important roles in the team’s rebuild. However, you can’t help but contemplate whether their success will depend on other people. Will we ever truly see the benefit of having a talented young linebacker and safety if the defensive line are incapable of putting sufficient pressure on the opposition quarterback? Will Okung have a hard time fending off heavy blitz packages if nobody fears Seattle’s potency at quarterback or the skill positions? The Seahawks may have to invest even more on other areas of the team to feel the maximum benefit of their $72m bounty for Curry, Okung and Thomas.