The Falcons have been busy on the defensive side of the ball so far this offseason, and Tuesday has seen another significant move made in that regard. Atlanta is acquiring cornerback Jeff Okudah from the Lions, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link). Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets that Detroit will receive a fifth-round pick in return.
Okudah entered the league in 2020 with sky-high expectations as the third overall pick following a standpoint career at Ohio State. Things haven’t gone according to plan for him, however, with injuries becoming a mainstay of his pro tenure. Pelissero notes that the Lions will clear all of the $5.1MM remaining in guaranteed money on Okudah’s deal in 2023, the final season of his rookie contract (Twitter link).
While that financial benefit is tangible, this deal still represents a hugely underwhelming return on investment for the Lions considering Okudah’s draft stock. The 24-year-old has been limited to just 22 games in his first three seasons due to multiple ailments – including an Achilles tear – earlier in his career. He did, however, manage to suit up for 15 contests in 2022, a season in which he recorded 73 tackles, one interception and seven pass deflections.
In coverage, Okudah flashed some of the potential he showed in college. He allowed a completion percentage of 59.7% and a passer rating of 87.6, figures which comfortably outpace those which he had produced in limited action during his first two seasons. He will now look to build off that success in Atlanta in advance of reaching free agency for the first time.
The Falcons have made a number of big splashes on defense in 2023, including a four-year, $64MM deal with safety Jessie Bates. Okudah will join a new-look secondary which has also seen the arrival of fellow former Lion Mike Hughes at the cornerback spot. They will join former first-rounder A.J. Terrell at the position, as the Falcons look to take a significant step forward at all three levels of their defense this year.
For Detroit meanwhile, this move creates a vacancy on a unit which struggled mightily in 2022. The Lions ranked 30th in the league against the pass last year, and a number of changes have been made to their cornerbacks room as a result. That includes the signing of Cameron Sutton as well as Emmanuel Moseley. Okudah joins Hughes and Amani Oruwariye as incumbents who will be playing elsewhere in 2023. Speculation could also pick up that a rookie could be in play for Detroit at the position.
The Lions own the No. 6 and No. 18 picks, which could put them in range for a few different cornerback options. The former selection would likely allow them to add the top prospect available at the position, presumably either Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez. With Okudah no longer in the picture, another long-term, starting-caliber investment on the perimeter would come as little surprise. Such a move carries risk, though, as evidenced by the way in which his time in the Motor City has played out and now come to an end.