The Detroit Lions chose not to use the franchise tag on either wide receiver Kenny Golladay or defensive end Romeo Okwara this offseason, setting both up to hit the open market of free agency this week.
But not so fast. On Monday, the Lions instead agreed to terms with their pass rusher on a new three-year deal.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Okwara has agreed to a new contract that will pay him up to a reported $39 million to remain in the Motor City through 2023. The 25-year old pass rusher led the Lions with 10.0 sacks last season, the first double-digit sack total of his five-year NFL career.
Originally going undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2016, Okwara was signed as a rookie free agent by the New York Giants. After two seasons in the Big Apple, the young defender was waived and claimed by the Lions prior to the start of the 2018 regular season. Okwara would go on to lead Detroit with 7.5 sacks in his first year in the Motor City.
After a lackluster performance in 2019 where he only managed to record 1.5 sacks (starting in only one of his 14 games), Okwara bounced-back in a big way last season. Now, that production has resulted in a large contract extension from the new regime in Detroit.
One of the reasons Okwara may have decided to remain in Motown is his little brother, Julian. The Lions made him their third-round selection out of Notre Dame in the 2020 NFL Draft. A leg injury limited Julian Okwara to just six games as a rookie. He played a total of 69 defensive snaps and 30 more snaps on special teams.
With Romeo Okwara now secured, the Detroit Lions will not be pressed to find themselves a starting pass rusher in either free agency or the draft. That’s also assuming defensive end Trey Flowers remains in Motown too. Still, you can never have enough quality pass rushers so finding another rotational piece is still in play for Detroit.