The Detroit Lions have had plenty of defensive issues this season: coaching, scheme and individual play, just to name a few.
One player who has not disappointed, though, is down defensive end Romeo Okwara.
Now in his third season in Detroit, the former undrafted free agent is having himself a career year.
Luckily, for Okwara, he is also playing on the last year of his two-year, $6.8 million contract extension he signed in March of 2019.
He is setting himself up for a nice payday -- whether it’s with the Lions or not.
Therein lies the big question: Should the Lions pay up for Okwara?
Let’s go over the pros and cons.
Okwara is getting to the quarterback at a very impressive clip in 2020.
According to Pro Football Focus and the site's pass-rushing productivity metric (a formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries, relative to how many times individuals rush the passer), Okwara currently possesses the third-highest rating for all qualified EDGE defenders in the NFL.
The only two EDGE rushers ahead of him are T.J. Watt and Joey Bosa. That is quite the company to be mentioned with.
PFF has credited Okwara with six sacks and 28 hurries.
Even with Okwara’s productive 2018 season (39 pressures), he still has more total pressures this year, with six games left to play.
Additionally, he's recorded a team-high 13 QB hits -- one away from his career-high mark of 14 in 2018.
Obviously, at the right price, just about every contract can be considered a good one.
With Okwara, this is his first real year of making a sizable impact.
He has been a career backup technically, but still has seen the field plenty in 2020.
It’s fair to label him as a role player, with signs of him developing enough to be a starter.
Given Okwara’s highs and lows, who knows the price tag he could pull on the open market.
Ultimately, it will come down to how much he will cost for the Lions for them to agree to an extension.
Remember, the Lions already have Trey Flowers signed on a big contract, and it could be difficult to have two highly-priced players splitting time at one position.
However, they do move around the two defensive ends, to deploy them both at the same time.
No matter the case, though, Okwara could be looking for more money than Lions general manager Bob Quinn and the team's capologist are willing to give.
Speaking of the general manager, that’s another unknown at play.
If the Lions are to move on from Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, a new regime may not have a specific position in mind for Okwara.
His athletic limitation causes him to not offer much versatility in a 3-4 scheme or while dropping into coverage.
Despite occasionally lining up inside, playing the run isn’t a strength of his, either.
He isn’t bad, but doesn’t necessarily excel in that area of the game.
Of the 114 graded EDGE defenders for run defense in 2020, Okwara lands 14th from the bottom.
So, if a 3-4 defense wanted him to play on the line, it likely wouldn’t be a good fit.
In the end, it will be a wait-and-see scenario on how much the presumably new coaching staff values Okwara’s skill set and if there is a good fit on the defense.
The Lions likely won’t be able to justify paying Okwara’s salary, if he is only to remain coming off the bench.
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