Detroit Lions’ Brad Holmes: Okudah trade to Atlanta Falcons will be ‘good for Jeff’

Detroit Free Press

Brad Holmes was not shopping for trades when he dealt tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings at last year’s NFL trade deadline.

“You get the call and sometimes it just lines up and it makes sense for all parties and it just did,” Holmes recalled in his annual pre-draft news conference Thursday.

Holmes found himself in a similar situation last week, when the Lions traded cornerback Jeff Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth-round pick in a deal that looks like a win-win for everyone involved.

The Lions, who agreed to pay some of Okudah’s salary to facilitate the deal, got a fifth-round pick for a player who was buried on their depth chart. The Falcons got a player with untapped potential at one of their biggest positions of need. And Okudah got a fresh start and a chance to compete for a starting job free from the weight of being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

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“I just think it was the right time. It was just the right time and I think it was good for Jeff,” Holmes said. “I had a good talk with him after it was done, and he told me he understood it as well. So it was great. I really respect what Jeff did. We kind of put him in some adverse moments in training camp last year and just like I told you guys, I really respected how he battled and didn’t bat an eye and won the starting job.”

Okudah made 22 starts and appeared in 25 games over three injury-riddled seasons in Detroit. He elected to undergo sports hernia surgery to fix a college injury late in his rookie season and missed most of 2021 with a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the Lions’ season-opener.

The Lions added three projected starters to their secondary this offseason, signing Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to free agent deals. With Will Harris also returning, Jerry Jacobs still under contract and the potential to add another cornerback in next week’s draft, Okudah faced an uphill battle for playing time (and perhaps a roster spot) had he remained in Detroit.

“We had the conversation of, ‘OK, if this didn’t happen now, is there a chance that it could happen a little bit later?'” Holmes said. “So I think it was just good for Jeff. I got a lot of respect for (general manager) Terry (Fontenot) out there in Atlanta. It was a really smooth, efficient process and it kind of just came up.”

The Lions have nine picks in next week’s draft, including seven in the first five rounds, but Holmes said Thursday he does not see this draft as similar to his first draft as Lions GM in 2021, when he set out to accumulate early-round picks because of the draft’s lack of depth.

The Lions made six of the first 113 picks in 2021. This year, they have five of the first 81 choices and Picks 152 and 159 in the fifth round.

“It’s just a different draft this year. It just is,” Holmes said. “Position strengths and volumes at certain positions are just different from years past, so you just got to weigh all of that. But again, it doesn’t really change our approach at all, you just got to accept the reality of that and then you just adjust from there.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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