If the Lions tag anyone it should be pass-rusher Romeo Okwara
By Jon Poole
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay is getting a lot of media attention for being a 2021 franchise tag candidate. Meanwhile, defensive end Romeo Okwara, who I believe is most tag worthy … is barely even being mentioned. You know, just the guy who was top-10 in sacks last season on the team who was 25th in blitz percentage.
Before I go any further, to be clear, I don’t think it’s a good move for the Lions to tag anyone in 2021, it’s just not worth the investment at this stage of the rebuild. But, if we are having a this-or-that conversation, Okwara has Golladay beat in just about every deciding factor.
There are a few primary reasons teams pay the big bucks to tag players.
It gives them more time to negotiate a new contract with the player, teams feel there might be an opportunity for a trade, or they’re holding on to a player they don’t want to sign long-term for one more year in their championship run window. I think we can all agree that the Lions goal with the 2021 tag wouldn’t be for a 2021 championship run.
Chances are an attempt to tag either player would be for another year of opportunity to sign them long-term or to trade them by the deadline. But, either way … Okwara is the clear choice to me. He plays the more valuable position, not as injury-prone, two years younger, and should be worth more come trade deadline 2021.
If the tag is an attempt to re-sign long-term, Okwara will be 28 and Golladay will be 30 years old by the start of the 2023 season when the Lions realistically hope to be competitive. Okwara has also only missed three games in his three-year Lions career and played in at least 14 games in four of his five seasons, including all 16 twice. Golladay battled injuries early on in his career and was only able to play in five games last season due to a strained hip flexor muscle.
Golladay was a borderline top-10 receiver with former quarterback Matthew Stafford, but I don’t think anyone is betting on him being better with the next guy. Okwara was a borderline top-10 pass-rusher last season, on the worst defense in the NFL. I could easily see a capable staff getting more out of Okwara, whether that’s in Detroit or elsewhere.
While Golladay would definitely be ranked higher than Okwara within their respected positions next to their NFL peers … wide receivers are arguably the most replaceable position in football outside of running back. Defensive ends are widely considered the second or third most valuable position, often flip-flopping with offensive tackle.
If the tag is an attempt to trade, well. All those just mentioned reasons Okwara would be a better re-sign candidate, also makes him likely to net the bigger return via trade as well. Though, to be fair, it only takes one positionally desperate team to tip the scale in either direction.
Even if you don’t think the return on investment is as clear-cut in favor of Romeo Okwara as I do. Maybe you think it’s fairly even. Maybe I didn’t convince you of a single thing and you still think it’s in Kenny Golladay’s favor. The conversation still shouldn’t be this lopsided.