After having the last two seasons impacted by a major injury, Romeo Okwara is eyeing a rebound back to his prior form next season.
With the young core of pass rushers the Detroit Lions are building–Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Josh Paschal–Romeo Okwara has become a forgotten man. Such is life in the NFL sometimes, which can stand for “Not For Long”, especially when you’ve missed a lot of time with a a major injury.
Okwara suffered a torn Achilles in Week 4 of the 2021 season against the Chicago Bears. Recovery times for that injury can vary (see Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah), and Okwara did not make his 2022 season debut until Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Okwara played 119 defensive snaps over five games, with two sacks. Both sacks game in Week 15 against the New York Jets, earning a SideLion Report game ball for his performance. In only briefly, he flashed the form that made him the Lions’ leading sacker in 2018 and 2020. He was rewarded by the then-new regime with a three-year, $37 million contract extension two years ago, before the torn Achilles effectively wrecked the last two seasons for him.
Romeo Okwara eyeing a return to being a pass rush force for the Lions
Kyle Meinke of MLive recently caught up with Okwara. Here’s what he had to say.
"It’s been really tough just not being on the field as much as I would like to with my teammates, and participate the way I would like to,”“But I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a year of growth. Just being away from the game like that, it definitely taught me a lot about myself. Gives me a greater appreciation for the game. Really it was great to see the team kind of like come into its own, and come into its form and grow in so many ways, and add to that as much as I can. So, it was a good year. Just looking forward to next year."
Okwara is entering the final year of that aforementioned contract, though 2024 was tacked on as a void year to spread out the signing bonus. He carries a cap hit of $14.5 million for 2023, with no more guaranteed salary left to pay him. The Lions can save $7.5 in cap space, with $7 million in dead money, if he’s a pre-June 1 cut (post-June 1 cut moves the cap savings to $11 million).
A lot has changed for Okwara and the Lions’ pass rush over the last couple seasons. But if he’s back in Detroit next season, he should be healthy and back to form enough to add something to a promising pass rush.