Report: Romeo Okwara Won't Be Franchise-Tagged by Lions After 10-Sack SeasonMarch 9, 2021
The Detroit Lions aren't going to apply the franchise tag to defensive end Romeo Okwara, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported earlier in the day the Lions aren't expected to tag star wide receiver Kenny Golladay either.
Okwara enjoyed a career year in 2020, registering 39 tackles, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.
The Lions appear to be building from the ground up. They have a new head coach (Dan Campbell) and general manager (Brad Holmes), and they traded franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.
Assuming it remains the case, Detroit's decision not to tag Golladay is as strong an indicator as any regarding the franchise's priorities. Holmes and the front office appear to be focused on the future rather than pushing for the playoffs in 2021.
Over the Cap estimates the franchise tag for a defensive end to be $17.8 million—the second-highest total at any position. That would be a steep price to pay for Okwara if the Lions are unlikely to be a winning team.
Pro Football Focus also ranked the 25-year-old as the No. 101 free agent available, explaining how his 2020 sack totals weren't emblematic of his performance to that point:
"After over 1,000 snaps of below-average production as a pass-rusher, Okwara finished like a ball of fire with the No. 3 pass-rush grade among edge defenders since Week 12. That stretch run was great, and it capped a career year that saw him post an 85.4 pass-rush grade, ninth-best in the league. If he's truly figured something out, Okwara is worth a shot as a No. 2 pass-rusher, but perspective is needed given the 4.5 years of average play prior to his half-season of dominance."
While getting overshadowed by Von Miller on the Denver Broncos, Shaquil Barrett enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what was his sixth season. He continued to play at a high level in 2020.
Perhaps Okwara has turned a corner in the same way. Nonetheless, it's hard to see another team paying him like an elite pass-rusher right now.
Because of that, declining to tag him not only makes sense for the Lions but also may not preclude him from returning to Detroit.