Russell Okung “keeping his options open”

Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung appears to be at least considering the possibility of walking away before the start of the season.

Following up on the report that Okung may retire because of COVID-19 concerns, Okung’s longtime advisor J.I. Halsell told Josina Anderson that Okung is exploring all options.

“[Okung] hasn’t decided anything. He’s keeping his options open as we get further into camp and hopefully a season,” Halsell said.

If Okung is motivated by concerns about COVID-19, retiring rather than opting out is an odd choice. If he retires, he gets no salary this season and would have to pay back $2.5 million of the $10 million signing bonus he received in 2017. If he had opted out, he would have received either $150,000 or $350,000 (depending on whether he’s considered at high risk) and would not have had a year to decide whether to go through with retirement and pay back the signing bonus money.

It may be the Okung just wants the Panthers to give him a raise, and raising the possibility of retirement could be the thing to get them to pay him what he wants.