Russell Okung

Latest On FA OL Russell Okung

Free agent offensive tackle Russell Okung continues to pursue a respectable contract offer. If that offer doesn’t materialize, Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com believes that veteran could sit out next season. As the reporter writes, Okung doesn’t appear to be ” so desperate to play in 2021 that he’ll sign a below-market deal.”

Back in May, Okung seemed to indicate that teams weren’t willing to pay him what he was seeking. In response to an ESPN article that floated the Steelers as a potential suitor, Okung tweeted that Pittsburgh “cannot afford” him. If the lineman continues to receive those (perceived) underwhelming offers, he could find himself at home for the entirety of the 2021 season.

Okung apparently mulled retirement last summer, but he still played with the Panthers in 2020. He was limited to only seven games, all of which he started at left tackle for Carolina, and he only played in six in 2019 with the Chargers. He’s appeared in 131 games since getting drafted by the Seahawks sixth overall back in 2010, and has started all of them. A two-time Pro Bowler, Okung is capable of being a very solid starter when healthy and at 32 should have something left in the tank physically. Blood clots in his lungs were what limited him in 2019, and his recent injury history is a bit concerning.

It’s been relatively quiet for the 32-year-old. We heard back in March that the Chiefs had checked in on the lineman.

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2021 Cap Space For All 32 NFL Teams

There are still plenty of quality free agents left on the board as we look ahead to training camp. Cornerback Steven Nelson, tackle Russell Okung, and longtime Legion of Boom leader Richard Sherman headline the list, along with accomplished edge rushers like Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and Olivier Vernon. That list will only grow larger, of course, as more teams shed veterans to redirect their funds elsewhere.

With that in mind, here’s a look at every NFL team’s cap situation, starting with the league-leading Jaguars:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — $32.7MM
  2. Denver Broncos — $28.9MM
  3. New York Jets — $28.5MM
  4. Cleveland Browns — $20.6MM
  5. Los Angeles Chargers — $19.9MM
  6. Detroit Lions — $17.9MM
  7. San Francisco 49ers — $17.8MM
  8. Cincinnati Bengals — $17.4MM
  9. Washington Football Team — $16.7MM
  10. Indianapolis Colts— $14.3MM
  11. Carolina Panthers— $14.3MM
  12. Minnesota Vikings — $13.5MM
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers — $13.1MM
  14. New England Patriots — $13.1MM
  15. New Orleans Saints — $11.4MM
  16. Arizona Cardinals — $11.3MM
  17. Buffalo Bills — $10.5MM
  18. Baltimore Ravens — $8.8MM
  19. Atlanta Falcons — $8.6MM
  20. Seattle Seahawks — $8.3MM
  21. Tennessee Titans — $8.3MM
  22. Kansas City Chiefs — $7.9MM
  23. Los Angeles Rams — $7MM
  24. Chicago Bears — $6MM
  25. Dallas Cowboys — $6MM
  26. Miami Dolphins — $5.3MM
  27. Green Bay Packers — $5MM
  28. Houston Texans — $5MM
  29. Las Vegas Raiders — $3.3MM
  30. Philadelphia Eagles — $3.2MM
  31. New York Giants — $2.4MM
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — $489K

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Chiefs Have ‘Checked In On’ Russell Okung

The Chiefs have been very proactive in remaking their offensive line this offseason, and they might not be done adding big names. They’ve already cut both of their starting tackles, will possibly let their starting center walk, and have signed Joe Thuney and Kyle Long to play on the interior.

They’ve also re-signed Mike Remmers to presumably man the right side, but are still lacking a clear starter at left tackle. They apparently came very close to landing Trent Williams, but he ultimately opted to re-sign with the 49ers. As they sift through backup plans, the team has “checked in on” Russell Okung, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (ESPN+ subscription required).

It’s the first known interest we’ve heard of in Okung this offseason. He apparently mulled retirement last summer, but played 2020 with the Panthers. He was limited to only seven games, all of which he started at left tackle for Carolina, and only played in six in 2019 with the Chargers. He’s appeared in 131 games since getting drafted by the Seahawks sixth overall back in 2010, and has started all of them.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Okung is capable of being a very solid starter when healthy and at 32 should have something left in the tank physically. Blood clots in his lungs were what limited him in 2019, and his recent injury history is a bit concerning.

If he managed to play a full (now 17-game) slate in 2021, he could be a nice addition for Kansas City. Fowler also speculates that the Chiefs could be in on a potential Orlando Brown trade to address the left tackle spot. If they don’t make one of these moves, they’ll likely look for a blindside protector for Patrick Mahomes in the draft.

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Panthers’ Russell Okung To Be Paid In Bitcoin

Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung will receive half of his $13MM in salary in bitcoin, per an announcement from Okung and a payments startup called Strike. Okung, who once tweeted “Pay me in Bitcoin!,” will fulfill his goal with the help of the Panthers. Rather than receiving his entire paycheck directly in USD, the Panthers will send half of his dollars to the payment company, who will then deposit bitcoin into Okung’s account.

While this is more of a savvy PR stunt than anything else, it’s notable that the Panthers are working in concert with the Bitcoin company to make it possible. The arrangement has also been approved by the NFL and the NFLPA. The founder of Strike’s parent company claims that members of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets are also in the process of switching to crypto, but such plans may require the cooperation of the NBA and MLB.

Okung, 32, is in the final year of the four-year, $53MM contract he originally signed with the Chargers. He’ll be a free agent in a matter of months, though he’s hinted at potentially retiring to pursue outside endeavors. Over the last two years, Okung has been limited to just 13 total games. After missing the previous two weeks with a calf injury, it’s unclear if he’ll play in the season finale against the Saints.

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NFC South Rumors: Arians, Saints, Okung

Having battled three different types of cancer and being set to turn 68 in October, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians falls into the higher-risk category for potential coronavirus complications. But Arians will coach this season, and he is not planning to do so from the press box. The second-year Bucs HC will coach from the sideline while wearing a mask and a face shield, he said recently.

As far as on the field, I’ll maintain a mask and probably a shield just for personal use and coach like I’ve always coached,” Arians said. “I’m very confident. Like I said, the protocols that are in place are extremely safe.”

Arians has had cancerous tumors to be removed from his prostate, skin and kidney. He enters the season as NFL’s third-oldest head coach, behind Pete Carroll, who are both 68. Two head coaches — Sean Payton and Doug Pederson — have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far. The Eagles HC tested positive earlier this week. Players and coaches are currently being tested daily. This arrangement will continue for two weeks before the league reassesses.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Russell Okung dealt with a health scare last year but did not opt out of the 2020 season. However, the Panthers‘ recently acquired left tackle is considering retirement. But Okung will wait on a decision for now. The 11th-year veteran will keep his options open as he goes further into camp, advisor J.I. Halsell told NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link). It’s possible the 31-year-old blocker wants to learn more about what this season’s COVID-19-defined environment will bring. Okung has a $13MM salary awaiting him this season but has already made a considerable amount of money in his career.
  • Emmanuel Sanders made the initial contact between he and the Saints in free agency, the 11th-year wide receiver said, per The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). The former Steelers, Broncos and 49ers wideout wanted to play with Drew Brees in New Orleans, and that helped lead to the two-year, $16MM deal he signed in March. Sanders also assisted the Saints with another free agent receiver, with a Brees-Sanders-Bennie Fowler workout in Denver leading to the latter’s signing this week (Twitter link via Terrell).
  • The Falcons plan to use recently signed cornerback Darqueze Dennard as a slot and boundary cornerback in training camp, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. Dennard mostly worked as a slot defender in Cincinnati. Atlanta signed Dennard earlier last week. He will join a cornerback crew that features third-year player Isaiah Oliver and first-round rookie A.J. Terrell.
  • Given Brees’ year-to-year status, the Saints are obviously not eyeing a contract-year trade of Alvin Kamara. But no known extension talks have taken place between the Saints and their standout back. However, a deal that pays the three-down back just less than what Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott make ($16MM and $15MM AAV, respectively) is a solution The Athletic’s Larry Holder envisions (subscription required). Kamara, one of several running back starters in contract years, has said he wants to stay in New Orleans.

Panthers’ Russell Okung Mulling Retirement

Russell Okung battled serious health issues in his final year with the Chargers and strongly considered opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. The new Panthers left tackle starter is now weighing retirement, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.

The 31-year-old tackle suffered a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots last year. The Chargers traded him to the Panthers for Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner in March.

One season remains on the four-year, $53MM contract Okung signed in 2017. He is set to make $13MM in base salary this season. If Okung deems the football environment unsafe this season, Fowler notes he is comfortable walking away. The former Seahawks first-round pick has played 10 NFL seasons.

Okung was a logical opt-out candidate and would have almost certainly received the $350K stipend for players who face higher risk of complications were they to contract the coronavirus. But he remains on Carolina’s active roster.

The Panthers lost both their guards from the 2019 season — Turner and Greg Van Roten — but return both players who primarily started at right tackle — Taylor Moton and second-year blocker Dennis Daley. Former tackle starter Daryl Williams left in free agency and is now with the Bills.

Should Okung walk away from the game, it would continue an exodus of veterans to leave the rebuilding Panthers this year. Luke Kuechly retired, while the team cut nine-year stalwarts Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. Mario Addison signed with the Bills, while James Bradberry defected to the Giants. An Okung departure would certainly be different, considering he was acquired after Matt Rhule took over.

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Russell Okung’s NFLPA Battle Continues

Russell Okung won’t go down without a fight. The Panthers tackle says he will appeal the dismissal of his unfair labor claim against the NFLPA (Twitter link). The National Labor Relations Board turned down Okung’s case just last week.

Okung claims NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith pushed the CBA vote through to union-wide vote, despite the opposition of the executive committee. Some established vets and union leaders, including Okung, were vocal in their disapproval, but the union’s rules didn’t necessarily require their yes vote.

The executive committee voted 6-5 in February not to recommend the owners’ CBA pitch, and after the NFL Draft Combine meeting, the exec committee was reportedly at 7-4 against recommending the CBA. The key word there is “recommending” – the NFLPA’s bylaws do not necessarily require a thumbs-up from that group. After that, the union’s 32-player board voted to send the proposal to the entire player body.

We look forward to a neutral party scrutinizing the NFLPA leadership’s history of circumventing and ignoring the union’s constitutional mandates and failure to represent the best interests of the labor force, culminating in a flawed, disappointing Collective Bargaining Agreement and forcing out of a leadership position a person who has shown enormous courage in fighting for players’ rights and protections,” Okung’s attorney said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Okung is gearing up for his new team in advance of the 2020 season. The Chargers shipped Okung to the Panthers in March and received guard Trai Turner in exchange.

I made it really clear, I’m not here to just rebuild,” Okung said recently (via ESPN.com’s David Newton). “I’m here to win, and win right now.”

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Extra Points: Bennett, NFLPA, Cap, Kirksey

Although Michael Bennett went through a nomadic late-2010s stretch after the Seahawks traded him in 2018, he remained productive. The veteran defensive lineman has registered 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is a free agent for the first time since 2013. Bennett, who signed with the Seahawks in 2013, would like to return to the team to which he’s most linked. Asked if he would want to play for the Seahawks again, the 34-year-old defender said “hard yes.” Bennett, though, has not yet committed to playing a 12th NFL season.

I would love to end my career in Seattle,” Bennett said, via Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest. “It’s not up to you, though. It’s up to the team.”

The Seahawks gave Bennett two contracts, including a three-year, $31.5MM extension in 2016. That contract was set to run through 2020, but after the Eagles and Patriots traded him, Bennett and the Cowboys restructured the deal to direct him toward free agency this year. Seattle has most of its pass rushers — including Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed — as impending free agents, so the franchise will have critical decisions to make in the next week and change.

Here is the latest from around the league, moving first to the reconfigured NFLPA:

  • Russell Okung has enjoyed an eventful March, being traded from the Chargers to the Panthers and filing an unfair labor practice charge at the NFLPA staff. As for Okung’s status with the union, he will no longer be part of the NFLPA’s executive committee, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Okung dropped his bid for NFLPA president, throwing support behind Michael Thomas in a race that went to Browns center J.C. Tretter. Both of the players Tretter beat out for the job — Thomas and linebacker Sam Acho — will stay on as executive committee members.
  • Calais Campbell, Malcolm Jenkins and Wesley Woodyard will replace Mark Herzlich, Zak DeOssie and Adam Vinatieri on the executive committee. They will join Tretter, Acho, Thomas, Richard Sherman, Ben Watson, Alex Mack, Lorenzo Alexander and Thomas Morstead on the 11-man committee, the union announced.
  • Rumblings about the salary cap rising to around $230MM by 2021 have surfaced, but the 2020 cap will not move too far from the previously estimated $200MM amount. If the players approve the CBA proposal, the highest the cap would surge to in 2020 would be $206MM, per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). While the salary ceiling could climb significantly by 2023, if the league’s TV negotiations go well, those spikes will not come until at least 2021.
  • Christian Kirksey may have a chance to land on his feet before free agency. Recently released by the Browns, the veteran linebacker has three visits scheduled, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Kirksey’s travel itinerary is not yet known, but the 27-year-old defender’s first visit is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
  • The Texans will take a look at a notable wide receiver soon. They will work out former Broncos rotational cog Jordan Taylor, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Taylor has not played since the 2017 season. He spent 2018 on the Broncos’ PUP list, and though he caught on with the Vikings last year, the 28-year-old target did not see game action.

J.C. Tretter, Michael Thomas, Sam Acho Nominated For NFLPA President

Three players will join Russell Okung in vying for the role of NFLPA president. Browns center J.C. Tretter, Giants safety Michael Thomas and Buccaneers linebacker Sam Acho have received nominations for union president, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Okung, who unveiled his candidacy earlier this year, was also nominated Monday. Okung, Thomas and Acho are current members of the NFLPA’s executive committee. Tretter serves as the Browns’ third co-alternate union representative.

The NFLPA will elect its next president on Tuesday; the union’s board members are meeting in south Florida this week to discuss key matters. One item obviously overshadows the rest this week. Players now have until 10:59pm CT Saturday to vote on the CBA. The NFLPA voted Monday to delay the deadline for two days.

Eric Winston has served in the role since 2014, but he will cycle out of it after ending his playing career after the 2018 season. The next president may or may not be thrust into a high-stakes situation. If more than 50% of players vote against CBA ratification, the 2020 season will be played under the 2011 CBA. That CBA expires in March 2021. Players voting against the proposal will increase the prospects of a strike or lockout next year.

Of the new members, Okung and Thomas submitted “no” votes on the CBA; Acho voted “yes” on the proposal, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Tretter did not indicate which way he has voted on the owners’ offer, Pelissero adds (via Twitter). Okung has been a hard-liner against the 17-game schedule, so much so he filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against the staff of the NFLPA, Ken Belson of the New York Times reports.

Okung’s filing accuses union executive director DeMaurice Smith of forcing a union-wide CBA vote despite objections from the executive committee, Belson adds. The executive committee voted 6-5 in February not to recommend the owners’ CBA proposal, and after the Combine meeting, the executive committee was at 7-4 against recommending the CBA, Belson reports. However, the union’s 32-player board voted to send the proposal for a union-wide vote.

Should the recent Panthers trade acquisition receive the keys after the players vote down a proposal Smith and Winston championed, the league could be set for period of uncertainty over the next several months.

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Chargers, Panthers Agree To Okung/Turner Swap

6:01pm: Turner wants a new contract, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. It remains to be seen whether the Chargers would be willing to give him a deal that reflects the current guard market.

4:44pm: The Chargers and Panthers have reached tentative agreement on a trade that would send tackle Russell Okung to Carolina and guard Trai Turner to L.A., according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). It’s a swap of two big-time and big-bodied offensive lineman that addresses areas of need for both teams. 

The deal is not yet official, but it sounds like the core pieces are in place. Once the new league year begins on March 18, the deal can be finalized.

The Panthers started shopping Turner earlier this month and it didn’t take long for a deal to come together. He’s got two years to go on his four-year, $45MM pact, but the Chargers are happy to pick up what’s left of the tab. The contract is not cheap by any stretch, but the guard market has rapidly advanced to the point where interior enforcers are getting ~$15MM year.

Turner, who has made the Pro Bowl for the last five years, has 84 career games and 80 NFL starts to his credit. Last year, he graded out as the No. 31 ranked guard in the league, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. In 2015 – his coming-out party – he positioned as one of the game’s very best.

Okung was skeptical of his future with the Chargers and vocal about his complaints against the team. His L.A. tenure has been a bit of a mixed bag. In Year One, Okung earned Pro Bowl honors. Unfortunately, he lost much of last season due to blood clots in his lungs and a painful groin injury. All in all, he appeared in just six games for the Chargers.

No one expected Okung to fetch a ton on the trade block – he has one year left on his four-year, $53MM deal and the Bolts seemed likely to cut ties. His contract calls for a sizable $16.7MM cap hit; the Chargers had an escape hatch, however, that would have left them with just $3.5MM on the books.

The Chargers already have more than $50MM in available cap room and shedding Okung’s deal would push them into $60MM+ territory. They can direct those funds towards finding Philip Rivers‘ replacement or stick with Tyrod Taylor as their starter and spread the funds all around.

Okung, who is also looking to lead the NFLPA’s charge in CBA discussions, would probably be happy to rejoin offensive line coach Pat Meyer.

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