Moments into the 2021 free agency period, the Detroit Lions were able to re-sign one of their own who seemed unlikely to return. Okwara was able to come to terms to extend his three years stay in Detroit to potentially six years. It is reported to be a three-year, $39 million deal, which gives him an average salary of $13 million per year.
The new contract will give him a nice, well-deserved pay bump, as in his first five years combined, Okwara has earned a little over $8 million in compensation, per contract, according to overthecap.com.
The resigning of Okwara also lends some credibility to the mentality that new head coach Dan Campbell and general manager (GM) Brad Holmes want to build, mainly in regards to developing and rewarding talent in-house.
The credibility of that philosophy was much in doubt after the powers that be chose not to apply the franchise tag to either Okwara or receiver Kenny Golladay, opting to let two of Detroit’s best young players test free agency.
It didn’t take long for Okwara to decide he didn’t like the taste on the market, deciding to return to Detroit a mere 15 minutes into the negotiating window. Or perhaps he never got a taste at all if this deal with Detroit had been in the works and almost done before the opening of league negotiating.
I can’t blame Okwara for taking the deal, as it’s more per year than I personally thought he was going to get on the open market, considering his lack of year-to-year consistency as a pass rusher. I thought that with the shrinking salary cap, and the inconsistencies on the stat sheet, he would be looking at offers similar to Markus Golden in 2019.
Okwara also fits in with the city of Detroit and its blue-collar mentality. Having gone undrafted out of Notre Dame, getting minimal playing time with the Giants before being released.
Okwara was claimed by the Detroit Lions in 2018 and went on the play 73% of their defensive snaps that year, registering 7.5 sacks in 14 starts.
Okwara’s playing time dipped in 2019 to 53% of defensive snaps and registering 1.5 sacks while logging only 1 start. His 2020 season saw him return to the starting lineup for nine games while playing in all 16.
He was on the field for 67% of the defensive snaps. This allowed Okwara to put it all together on the field and register ten sacks, finishing in the top 10 in the league. And rightfully so, The Detroit Lions rewarded him with a multi-year deal.
Also, it will be interesting to compare his contract to similar pass rushers on the market. There are already a few who have come in around the 15M/year mark, but the full details of the contracts are not yet public as of this writing.