Lions are rightfully not committed on fifth-year option for Jeff Okudah

SideLion Report

Jeff Okudah finally mostly stayed healthy this season, but the Lions are not yet committed to picking up his fifth-year option.

After two injury-riddled seasons, cornerback Jeff Okudah easily made our list of Detroit Lions players with the biggest contract implications for the 2022 season.

The core of that was the then-upcoming season being Okudah’s third NFL season. As the third overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Lions had a decision to make on his fifth-year contract option afterward (early May 2023).

Simply put, Okudah needed to stay healthy and at least show some of the potential which made him such a lofty draft pick by the previous Lions’ regime.

For a large chunk of the season, Okudah was healthy and played well. He played a primary role in shutting down some notable opposing receivers early (see Justin Jefferson in Week 3), and in some other games later he was a force against the run as that area notably improved for the team.

But Okudah was one of the Lions who dealt with an illness bug in the second half of the season, which rendered him notably less effective against the Vikings in Week 14 before he was essentially benched in that game.

In Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers, as the Lions had their worst defensive performance of the season, Okudah was benched in the second half. Then he played just 17 snaps against the Bears in Week 17, and he missed Week 18 with an elbow injury that popped up (however conveniently) late in the week.

Lions may wait as long as possible to decide on Jeff Okudah’s fifth-year option

As noted by Kyle Meinke of MLive before the season finale he ultimately missed, Okudah was graded as a bottom-five coverage corner in the league by Pro Football Focus from Week 11-17 (minimum 20 percent snap share).

During his season-wrapup presser on Tuesday, via Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News,  Lions general manager Brad Holmes talked about Okudah and the looming decision on his fifth-year option.

He’s kind of really getting extensive action for the first time. And he showed some good things, but when I say, ‘basically like a rookie season,’ he’s gonna have lumps,” Holmes said. “He showed some good. He had some things that were not so good. But he’s a really young player. I think he’s still developing.”

I know fifth-year option, all that stuff … is coming up. We’ll address that at the appropriate time,” Holmes said. “But I’m proud of what Jeff did and I know he’ll hold himself accountable for his play, of the good things and the things he needs to work on.”

By the end of Week 9 this season, Okudah had played more snaps than he had played in his first two seasons combined. That has to be noted within the whole picture of his season, good (15 starts, 73 total tackles, seven pass breakups) and bad (the late-season drop-off).

Okudah has a cap hit just shy of $10.7 million for 2023, and his fifth-year option for 2024 is projected to be worth a little shy of $11.3 million. There’s time before the May 2 deadline to decide on the option, so Holmes isn’t and doesn’t have to be any hurry.

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