For Lions’ Okwara, sticking with brother trumped maximizing value on open market

Detroit News

It’s difficult to think of a salary averaging $13 million as a bargain, but there’s a realistic chance Romeo Okwara didn’t maximize his value in free agency.

A quick look around the league this week will tell you how much edge rushers were in demand. Even with a depressed cap due to the pandemic, no position group was able to better cash in on their ability and their potential than defenders who get after the quarterback.

And Okwara checked all the boxes for teams in the market for help.

Production? Yep. He’s coming off a career-high 10 sacks and ranked in the top-10 in quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Age? It’s tough to beat a 25-year-old with no real durability concerns.

But, in the end, 31 teams couldn’t offer what the Detroit Lions could — family.

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Last year, the Lions drafted Okwara’s younger brother Julian. And after missing out on the chance to play together in high school and college because of their age gap, Romeo wasn’t ready to let this unique opportunity slip through his fingers.

“I think it’s rare to have brothers on the same team, let alone the same position, which I think is really special,” Romeo said. “And being able to share that with him, especially going to the same college, I don’t know, it’s family. I think that was something that was really, really important to me and it’s kind of like a priceless decision and a pretty easy decision for me to make.”

Players wait for years to test their worth on the open market, but about 15 minutes after teams were permitted to talk to free agents, news broke Romeo was re-signing with Detroit.

He still netted a significant raise, a three-year pact worth up to $39 million, with a little more than half of that guaranteed. But could he have gotten more from someone else? Maybe. On the other hand, he might have taken even less to keep playing with Julian.

“At the end of the day, for me, it was a pretty simple decision,” Romeo said. “Being able to play with my brother and I guess be able to continue that, what we wanted, our vision we have, and what we want to get done in the city of Detroit, it was very important for me. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me and was able to get something done very quickly.”

Unfortunately, the brothers didn’t share the field much last season because Julian had some injury issues. Still, the Lions have high hopes for the younger Okwara after selecting him in the third round of the 2020 draft.

After the draft, the brothers moved next door to each other, often had dinner together and Romeo got the joy of showing Julian the ropes. Now their contracts overlap, both set to expire in 2024, and the vision going forward is more than sharing the field, but sharing in future success.

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