The Notre Dame Product set career highs in multiple categories in 2020, so if the Lions want to keep him, they may have to empty their pocket book.
With the Lions new and improved coaching staff nearly in place, it is now time to shift the excitement towards the offseason. During this time, new General Manager Brad Holmes, and Senior Personnel Executive John Dorsey, will have a lot of decisions to make and questions to answer. Who will Detroit target in the 2021 Draft? Where will Matthew Stafford end up? Will Kenny Golladay be wearing Honolulu Blue come next fall? However, one inquiry that the front office will need to address, that is somewhat flying under the radar, pertains to their strongest defensive weapon this past year; Romeo Okwara.
In just his fifth NFL season, Okwara may have hit the beginning of the prime of his career. His 10.0 sacks were good enough for top 10 in the entire NFL and accounted for 41% of the Lions total sacks. Reliability was another thing the 25-year-old brought to the table, appearing in all 16 games in 2020. Okwara provided what the Lions defensive line has been missing for multiple seasons, so is a resigning in his future?
The Lone Bright Spot
Every one knows by now that the Lions had the worst defense in the entire NFL this past season. The worst part of it is they were even worse than the defense of the famous 0-16 team back in 2008. Total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and total points allowed were all categories Detroit was at the bottom of the league in. To say new Head Coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes some work to do on that side of the ball, would be an understatement.
Romeo Okwara was arguably the best defender on a team that didn’t have many to begin with. He led the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and QB hits. An argument could be made that Romeo was the best player on the special teams unit as well. No NFL player since 2015, blocked a punt and an extra point in the same season until Okwara did so this season. Throw in his first career safety and the Notre Dame product by far had his best campaign in the league.
It was no fluke either. His edge rushing counterpart, Trey Flowers, went down with an injury in early November, but was replaced by Everson Griffen, so it wasn’t that he was the only capable pass rusher on the squad. Okwara also had to match up against some of the NFL’s best offensive lines as well in the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This outbreak was bound to happen for the undrafted free agent, and it just so happened to be in the final year of his contract.
Show Him The Money
Resigning Romeo Okwara should be as much, if not more, of a concern for the Lions front office this spring as resigning Kenny Golladay is. Defensive end is one of the most important positions on the football field. In 2020, Romeo proved he is close to being in the same breath as some of the NFL’s best edge rushers. For a ‘retooling’ team like Detroit, letting a high-caliber defender walk without at least giving him an offer, would be foolish. So how much money should that offer be for?
If we are going off past performance, Okwara should be the 10th highest paid defensive end in the league. Kawann Short of the Panthers currently holds that title by making $16 million a year. Romeo doesn’t quite have the track record for a check that big. It also doesn’t help the Lions already have a player on the books making that kind of money in Trey Flowers.
The Lions will not have a lot of cap space going into the new league year, so there is no easy guess as to what Okwara might get if he is brought back. What is known for sure is Brad Holmes has his work cut out for him. If revamping the pass rush and making the most of what the Lions roster has right now is on the top of his to do list, no question should Okwara be resigned. However, if the new general manager elects to start from scratch, it may be best to let him walk. Let’s just hope he doesn’t sign with a divisional foe.
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