Why Romeo Okwara gave the Detroit Lions a discount on his new contract

Detroit Free Press

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If you ever wanted to know what an NFL player giving his team a hometown discount looks like, look no further than Romeo Okwara.

The Detroit Lions defensive end didn’t want to test the free-agent market. He didn’t want to have his ego stroked with more lucrative offers.

He just wanted to keep playing with his brother, linebacker Julian, whom the team drafted in the third round last year.

That’s what made it a fast and easy decision for Okwara to sign a three-year, $39-million contract with the Lions even after he finished 10th in the NFL last year with 10 sacks.

“I mean at the end of the day for me it was a pretty simple decision,” Okwara told reporters Wednesday. “Being able to play with my brother and, I guess, continue that, what we wanted, our vision we have and 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.”

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At 25, Okwara is only two years older than his brother. But they didn’t play together in high school or at Notre Dame. That changed when the Lions drafted Julian. The brothers lived near each other and spent a lot of time together, especially during training camp, when they shared meals and time together after practice.

“And being able to share that time especially with my brother on the same team is kind of unbelievable and priceless,” Okwara said. “So that was very important for me.”

While some players chase money and glory on playoff-ready teams, Okwara knew he wanted to re-sign with the Lions as soon as they drafted his brother and signed him to a four-year deal.

“And I think our contracts are going to finish at the same time now,” he said. “That was definitely something I wanted to get done and just being able to spend the time helping him and I guess develop this defense together.”

While the previous regime gave Okwara the chance he needed by claiming him off waivers from the New York Giants in 2018, he said he made a connection with new coach Dan Campbell, who sold him on what he’s trying to build in Detroit.

“Obviously you guys know his personality: high energy, a little unorthodox,” he said. “But at the end of the day I thought it would be a great fit. Love the things he’s doing here in the building.”

Okwara said he doesn’t care if he plays defensive end or outside linebacker. He also recently spoke with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and liked what he heard, although he didn’t divulge much about what the defense will look like: “It’s going to be a combination of everything. … I think it’s going to look real special going forward.”

Okwara might be a good judge of special potential. After all, he’s the guy who was cut from his middle school team, went undrafted and then was cut from his original NFL team.

“Kind of having these points in my career where things didn’t necessarily go as planned leading up to this moment,” he said, “I’m just very thankful for everyone I guess believing in me and having my support system, my family, just guiding me through that whole process and having that source to lean on.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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