If there was any doubt before, Brad Holmes’ comments on Monday confirm that Jeff Okudah’s future with the Detroit Lions is firmly up in the air.
Some fifth-year option decisions are easy. Even a year ago, though they would eventually trade him, the Detroit Lions picking up tight end T.J. Hockenson’s option was a no-brainer. The case of cornerback Jeff Okudah, the third overall pick in the 2020 draft, is more nuanced and general manager Brad Holmes acknowledged as much.
After two injury-riddled seasons, Okudah was healthy and played well for a big chunk of last season. But he faded late, as a concussion, an illness and another injury cost him games, impacted his play and led to him being benched.
The Lions have until early May to decide if they will pick up Okudah’s fifth-year option for 2024, which will cost a fully guaranteed $11.51 million.
Cornerback was the Lions biggest need entering free agency, and they attacked it aggressively signing Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley before adding versatile defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
So Okudah has been knocked down the depth chart quickly, before any notion the Lions might add a cornerback in the draft.
Brad Holmes says it all about Jeff Okudah’s future in Detroit
Deadlines drive action, and quite frankly the Lions still have over a month before they have to make the decision on Okudah’s fifth-year option. Holmes talked about Okudah at the league meetings Monday, and perhaps said it all.
Via Kyle Meinke of MLive.
Yeah, we’ll just update you as soon as we make that choice on the fifth-year option,” “But you know, again, I talked to you guys about Jeff at the end of the season in terms of, you know, the unique thing about him is that he’s still growing. And he’s still learning as a player, you know, even, you know, all the years that he’s been in the league already, it’s still been very minimal play time.
I told you that, you know, last year was he’s basically a rookie, you know, in terms of playing time. So, he’s still got a lot of ability, but when the official decision is made on the fifth-year option, I’ll make sure you guys are the first to know.”
Frankly, $11.5 million for 2024 is a lot to commit to someone who might not be a starting cornerback for you next season and in some respect you view as still developing. To say nothing of the $10.6 million cap hit he has for this year, as at best the No. 3 corner if everyone is healthy and once Moseley is ready coming off a torn ACL.
The Lions have given insight into their big picture thoughts about Okudah with their free agency moves to push him down the depth chart this year. It’s best to believe them, as the odds they pick up that fifth-year option seem to be slowly fading.