Last week when the Detroit Lions passed on using the franchise tag on Romeo Okwara, some wondered if that was a sign that the team would let him hit free agency. Despite a 10-sack season—his best to date—neither Okwara nor the Lions made any public indications that a re-signing was imminent. It looked as if the 25-year-old pass rusher was about to cash in on the free agency market and the Lions would have to look elsewhere.
However, behind the scenes was a very different look. Okwara wasn’t thinking about hitting the open market. He wanted to get a deal done with Detroit, and he wanted to continue to play alongside his brother Julian. So just minutes after the legal tampering period began and Romeo’s agent could start talking to other teams, the Lions locked him in to a three-year deal worth up to $39 million.
“At the end of the day, it was a pretty simple decision,” Romeo said on Wednesday. “Being able to play with my brother and continue our vision we had—what we want to get done in the city of Detroit, that was very important to me. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me and was able to get something done pretty quickly.”
Pairing with his brother was a “huge” factor for Romeo. Though they both went to Notre Dame, their careers were separated by a couple years. They never got to play at the high school level together, either. But with both players now part of a new defensive system in Detroit—and both coincidentally signed exactly through the 2023 season—it’s a unique opportunity for the two and “priceless” for the Okwara family.
“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. “Being able to share that with him—especially going to the same college—it’s family. So I think that was really, really important to me. It’s kind of like a priceless decision.”
Priceless, you say? Does that mean that you took a bit of a hometown discount to stay in Detroit?
“I guess it’s kind of unknown,” Romeo said. “Like you said, free agency lasted pretty quickly. It was pretty quick for me, so I don’t know.”
Regardless, Romeo and Julian are reunited after just a single year in Detroit. The two will bounce ideas off each other, challenge each other on the field, grow closer as family members, oh, and Romeo thinks they’re on the brink of creating something big on the field, too.
“I think we’re building something really special here, and I’m looking forward to just getting in the building and being in the building with the guys and just going through the process together.”