According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Detroit Lions will not be using the franchise tag on edge rusher Romeo Okwara. After it was reported that the Lions wouldn't use the tag on Kenny Golladay, it appears Detroit is ready to let their two biggest free agents test the market on March 17.
With the franchise tag projected to touch $17.7 million for EDGE rushers per OverTheCap.com, that number was likely too much for the Lions to work with. A long-term deal could still be in the cards, and they can negotiate with him for another week without interference from other teams, but it’ll be very tempting for Okwara to test free agency.
This free agency class has several top tier edge rushers—including Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers), Bud Dupree (Steelers), Matt Judon (Ravens), Trey Hendrickson (Saints), Haason Reddick, (Cardinals), Leonard Floyd (Rams), Melvin Ingram (Chargers), and Jadeveon Clowney (Titans)—but Okwara, Yannick Ngakoue (Ravens), and Carl Lawson (Bengals) are 26-years old, giving them a little extra appeal for teams looking for long-term solutions.
Okwara is coming off a career-high 10 sack season, which is a big plus for his free agency status, and he managed this will very little help around him. His agent will surely be leaning on this fact as a “turning the corner” selling point to any teams considering him.
Working against Okwara is that his total 2020 production was equal to his sack output in his previous four years combined, which doesn't speak well to his consistency before last season. Still, at his young age, he has probably yet to reach his developmental ceiling.
If Okwara does leave in free agency, the Lions will turn to JACK linebacker Austin Bryant and Julian Okwara (Romeo’s brother) as potential replacement options. They will also likely need to examine the free agency and draft classes for additional depth.