Detroit Lions: Predictions for five important free agents
2020 statistics: 16 games played, 10.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 44 total tackles
2020 base salary: $2.75 million
As bad as the Lions’ defense was in 2020, there were some bright spots. One of those few glimmers was the consistent play of Okwara, who timed a career-year perfectly as he heads into free agency.
The Lions managed just 24.0 sacks last season, with almost half of them belonging to Okwara. Despite the team’s poor season, players that can get to the quarterback with any regularity in the NFL always cash in, and Okwara is looking at a substantial raise from his 2020 salary. Whether the Lions are the ones to pay it will be an intriguing storyline to follow.
Okwara ranked 10th in the league last year in sacks while making less than $3 million, with the nine players ahead of him earning an average base salary of over $7 million in 2020. Expect him to easily surpass that number on his next deal.
The Lions will return co-edge defender Trey Flowers on the edge with a cap hit of over $19 million next season. Flowers, though, will essentially be playing in a new scheme for the first time in his NFL career in 2021. He also missed nine games due to injury last year, underscoring the importance of quality depth at the position.
However, as the Lions embark on a new path under new leadership, how comfortable will they be paying upwards of $30 million for two players from one position group next year? It just may not be financially prudent, particularly given the likelihood of a shrinking salary cap and many other roster holes to fill.
If the Lions do find themselves in a bidding war for Okwara’s services, they may hold an advantage, with Romeo’s younger brother Julian returning next season after an injury-plagued rookie year in Detroit. Still, as much of a pull factor as that may be, as we’ve seen before, money often speaks the loudest in the NFL, and Lions may not be able to match some of the offers that will come Okwara’s way.
Prediction: Okwara signs a four-year, $50 million deal with the New York Jets