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The case for and against Russell Okung

The Detroit Lions are rumored to be interested in the left tackle. But is signing him too risky?

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It appeared the Detroit Lions were going to lay low in free agency in regards to their offensive line as day two was coming to a close. But out of nowhere, several reports emerged that the Lions were not only interested in Russell Okung, but are scheduled to meet with him on Friday. Okung is a former first round pick, back in 2010. In his six years with the Seattle Seahawks, he has won a Super Bowl and been named to the Pro Bowl once. It's easy to see how Lions fans quickly expressed their excitement over the news, especially considering their hunger for an offensive line upgrade for over a decade now. But is Okung the right guy?

Why the Lions should sign Okung

The Lions offensive line has been holding back the offensive for a very long time now. Detroit has dealt with mediocrity at the left tackle position since before Jeff Backus. Last season specifically, the Lions suffered from poor line play across the unit. Matthew Stafford was the sixth-most sacked quarterback and the Lions' running game was arguably the worst in the league.

Okung has been a stalwart of the Seahawks offensive line since entering the league six years ago. He has started 72 games at left tackle in his career. In each of his past four seasons at left tackle, the Seahawks have finished with a top-five running game.

Okung would provide an immediate upgrade at left tackle, and would give the Lions the option to slide Riley Reiff to the right side, which may be considered an upgrade over Michael Ola, as well.

Why the Lions should pass on Okung

For as exciting as it would be to sign a Pro Bowl offensive tackle, Okung comes with many red flags. None are bigger than the long list of injuries during Okung's career.

His 2015 season ended with a shoulder injury, which he later had surgery on. He recently sent out an email to all teams notifying them that he should be fully recovered in five months.

But his injury history goes well beyond that. He dealt with two high ankle sprains in his rookie year, tore his pectoral muscle in 2011, was placed on the short-term IR after tearing a toe ligament in 2013, and is now dealing with a shoulder injury. Okung has yet to play in all 16 games in a season, and that is a major cause for concern.

But beyond the injury, Okung's play has visibly gotten worse. Though he's still playing at an above-average level and would still present an upgrade on the offensive line, the days of Pro Bowl Russell Okung appear to be behind him. Here's what Pro Football Focus had to say on him:

There was a time when Okung was close to being a top-10 tackle in the league, but it has been three years since his peak in 2012. He was a good run-blocker early in his career, but his cumulative run block grades of -7.2 and +1.0 the past two seasons have been considerably lower. He’s had just one above-average pass-blocking season in six years, but the Seahawks’ comparatively run-heavy offense has lessened that exposure.

Considering the Lions will be a much more pass-heavy offense, Okung may not be a good fit.

And then there's the money issue. Okung, with his name along, may draw a hefty contract. It doesn't help that Okung already has two other suitors: the Seahawks want him back, and the Giants are scheduled to visit with him before the Lions do on Friday. One interesting twist to the contract negotiations is Okung does not have an agent and will represent himself.


If the Lions are serious about nabbing Okung in free agency, they likely know he comes with a huge "Buyer Beware" tag on him. There are plenty of red flags about his injury history and his declining production. Still, he would undoubtedly upgrade the offensive line. Like with most free agency signings, it will come down to money. Right now, spotrac estimates Okung's market value around a 4 year, $35.6 million contract. At that price, I would pass on the risky tackle.

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