Amani Oruwariye

Lions Rumors: Oruwariye, Brockers, R. Okwara

Just a few months ago, Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye was reportedly in line for a lucrative contract extension, or perhaps a notable free agent contract next offseason. To say that Oruwariye’s stock has dropped since those reports surfaced would be an understatement.

Oruwariye has struggled mightily in 2022, and he was benched for Detroit’s Week 5 loss to the Patriots. He returned to the field for the team’s Week 7 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday — the Lions had a Week 6 bye — but a player that entered the season looking like a potential defensive cornerstone is now a trade candidate, as Justin Rogers of the Detroit News opines.

For what it’s worth, head coach Dan Campbell does not believe that Oruwariye’s uncertain contract situation has impacted his performance (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press), though the return of Jerry Jacobs — who was activated from the PUP list this week and who made his 2022 debut against Dallas — could make Oruwariye more expendable. Rogers believes the Lions would look for a fourth- or fifth-round pick if they seek to trade the Penn State product.

Here are a few more Detroit-related items:

  • Like Oruwariye in Week 5, Michael Brockers was a healthy scratch for the Lions’ Week 7 contest against the Cowboys, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com notes. The 31-year-old D-lineman had started each of the club’s previous five games, but he appeared in just 11 snaps in the New England matchup several weeks ago, and he has a grand total of two quarterback hits in 21 starts for Detroit over the past two years. Brockers is under club control through 2023, though the team can save $10MM against the cap if it releases him at year’s end. At this point, a release appears inevitable.
  • Edge rusher Romeo Okwara suffered a torn Achilles last October, which ended his 2021 season after just four games, and he has been parked on the PUP list since July. He has been eligible to return for several weeks now, but Rogers says the Lions have given no indication that Okwara is ready to practice. Even if Okwara gets back on the field this year and performs as he did during his 10-sack 2020 campaign, Rogers believes the team may not retain him after the season is over. A release would create $7.5MM in cap room, and the team’s draft position and the development of players like second-round rookie Josh Paschal will factor into GM Brad Holmes‘ decision-making process.
  • The Lions continue to be without first-round rookie Jameson Williams, and fellow wideout DJ Chark was recently placed on IR. Detroit’s WR group was further depleted on Sunday, as second-year pro Amon-Ra St. Brown took a hit to the head in the Dallas game and was immediately ruled out for the remainder of the contest pursuant to the new concussion protocol provisions (Twitter link via Rogers). His status for the Lions’ Week 8 game against the Dolphins will obviously be up in the air.
  • In addition to Oruwariye, Rogers names DL Austin Bryant, C Evan Brown, and LB Chris Board as potential trade candidates. The 1-5 Lions profile as sellers as we approach the November 1 trade deadline.

Latest On Lions CBs Saivion Smith, Amani Oruwariye

The Lions’ Week 5 contest resulted in a lopsided defeat against the Patriots, but also a number of questions related to their cornerbacks room. Most notably, Saivion Smith was taken off the field by an ambulance, after he suffered a potential neck injury. 

Smith went down after engaging with Patriots tight end Hunter Henry. The contact on the play was relatively minimal, but caused him to be taken to hospital for further evaluation (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). Fortunately, head coach Dan Campbell said after the game that Smith has full movement in his extremities. As a result, he is hopeful Smith will be able to accompany the team on the flight home, per Justin Rodgers of the Detroit News (Twitter link).

A former UDFA, Smith made six appearances with the Cowboys last season, including one start. He has since split time between the 49ers and Lions. He had yet to make a tackle before suffering the injury, something which was also true of another, much more prominent member of Detroit’s secondary.

Amani Oruwariye was a healthy scratch, as noted by Rodgers prior to kickoff. The move came as a surprise, given his status as a starting outside corner and the highly-productive start to his career. With six interceptions in 2021, the former fifth-rounder emerged as a key part of the Lions’ defense, and put himself on the radar for a new deal. Heading into a contract year, he was reported to be a player the team was giving serious thought to extending.

However, Oruwariye lacked the ball production he had put up last season, with just a pair of pass deflections to date. That, coupled with Campbell’s stated intention of a shakeup regarding defensive personnel, shed light on the reasoning behind the decision. Will Harris filled in for Oruwariye, who represents a poor option as a backup on gamedays since he does not play on special teams.

Having lost 29-0 to a Patriots team missing each of its top two quarterbacks, more changes are likely to be made on the Lions’ defense, which was already the league’s lowest-rated before the game. For very different reasons, the time at which Smith and Oruwariye return to the field will be worth watching.

Lions’ Amani Oruwariye Eyeing Long-Term Deal

After he enjoyed a breakout season, the Lions let it be known they were considering an extension with cornerback Amani OruwariyeAs detailed by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the desire to get a deal done is mutual. 

[RELATED: Lions Discussing Oruwariye Extension]

“Yeah, I love Detroit” the 26-year-old said when asked about his intention of signing long-term. “I mean, I love being here. I love everything it’s given me. It’s given me a chance to play in the NFL, so ideally that’s where I want to be at. But we’ll see.”

A fifth round pick in 2019, Oruwariye recorded a pair of interceptions in his rookie season, but it wasn’t until the following year that he became a full-time starter. He played a career-high 1,028 snaps in 2020, taking significant strides in pass coverage. That set the stage for this past campaign.

Stepping into the No. 1 role as a result of Jeff Okudah‘s torn Achilles, Oruwariye set career highs across the board in tackles (57), interceptions (six) and passes defensed (11), continuing to improve nearly all of his coverage statistics along the way. His level of play made him a strong candidate for an extension, so it came as little surprise when general manager Brad Holmes said the team was considering offering him one.

“Obviously, with Amani, with the ball production that he had, and just being a good teammate – he’s really developed as a leader” he said when discussing the subject last month. “He’s still a young guy… There’s still upside in him.”

If Oruwariye does land a second contract, he will likely earn a considerable raise from the $2.54MM he is due in 2022. While the team could wait one more season to extend him, doing so could ultimately drive his asking price up, if he continues his current career trajectory.

Lions Discussing Amani Oruwariye Extension

There were few bright spots in the 2021 season for the Lions. One of the them was the breakout campaign enjoyed by cornerback Amani Oruwariye, which may have earned him a new deal. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the team is considering offering him a contract extension. 

[RELATED: Lions To Pick Up Hockenson’s Fifth-Year Option]

General manager Brad Holmes confirmed that the Lions “have had internal discussions” regarding Oruwariye. The 26-year-old was a fifth-round pick of Detroit in 2019. He took on starting role in his second season, and progressed a step further this past year, becoming one of the team’s most important defenders. In 14 contests, he made a team-leading six interceptions, doubling his previous career total. He also showed statistical improvement in terms of pass coverage.

“Obviously, with Amani, with the ball production that he had, and just being a good teammate – he’s really developed as a leader”, Holmes said. “He’s still a young guy, as often said sometimes, still has meat left on the bone. There’s still upside in him.”

The Lions had the second-worst scoring defense in the league in 2021, but the play of Oruwariye himself stood out relative to the unit’s overall performance. While Holmes didn’t specify how far along contract talks are at the moment, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if an extension is in his future down the road.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/25-12/26/21

Here are the NFL moves from Christmas and today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

NFL Distributes Performance-Based Payouts

Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.

All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).

The full list, going team-by-team, can be found here, courtesy of the NFLPA.

Lions Place Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay On Reserve/COVID-19 List

TODAY: Good news for the Lions. Stafford has been removed from the COVID-19 list and has been placed back on the active roster, per a team statement. Apparently, the third test that he was required to take before entering team facilities resulted in what turned out to be a false positive, but his next three tests were all negative. Neither Stafford nor any members of his household have (or had) COVID-19.

AUGUST 1: The Lions placed Matthew Stafford on their reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. He joins Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson and Justin Coleman on Detroit’s list.

Placement on this list does not mean these players tested positive for the coronavirus. The list also includes players who are quarantining because they came in contact with someone who has tested positive. Stafford will join Golladay, Hockenson and Coleman in being away from the bulk of Lions teammates for the time being.

Thus far, Stafford is the NFL’s highest-profile player to land on the COVID list. He is, however, believed to be asymptomatic at this time, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Cornerback Amani Oruwariye, punter Arryn Siposs, safety Jalen Elliott and tight end Isaac Nauta are also on Detroit’s reserve/COVID list. Among the Lions’ group, as of Saturday, it is known Coleman tested positive, though NFL.com reported the veteran slot corner is asymptomatic.

If Stafford tested positive, he will be required to miss at least five days. This waiting period is only for asymptomatic players. Players who test positive and have symptoms for the virus must miss at least 10 days. That number is fluid; it depends on symptoms players experience. Players who land in either category must test negative twice before rejoining the team.

In this altered training camp format, practices do not begin until Aug. 12. Full practices do not start until Aug. 17, so the Lions have a bit of time for their group of starters to return. Teams begin their strength and conditioning-based acclimation periods Monday. Of course, this all depends on the players’ issues with the virus.

Lions Sign T.J. Hockenson, 2 Other Picks

The Lions’ second top-10 tight end pick in six drafts, T.J. Hockenson is now in the fold. The acclaimed Iowa prospect signed his rookie contract on Thursday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets.

In addition to Hockenson’s four-year deal, with the customary fifth-year option, the Lions agreed to terms with second-rounder Jahlani Tavai and fifth-round selection Amani Oruwariye, Birkett adds (via Twitter). Hockenson will receive a $12.435MM signing bonus upon inking his four-year, $19.821MM deal.

Detroit drafted Hockenson at No. 8 overall, two spots higher than the team took Eric Ebron five years ago. Hockenson may not have Ebron’s receiving upside but brings a more well-rounded game and hails from what’s become a tight end factory. The Hawkeyes have produced George Kittle, Broncos first-rounder Noah Fant, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tony Moeaki, Scott Chandler and Dallas Clark over the past 15-plus years. Hockenson is expected to immediately become a key target for Matthew Stafford.

The Lions passed on Ebron’s 2018 option last year, and while the former North Carolina standout thrived as a Colt, his former team struggled to replace him. Levine Toilolo‘s 263 yards led Detroit tight ends. Hockenson, whom the Jaguars likely would have selected had the Giants not taken Daniel Jones at No. 6, broke out for 760 (on 49 receptions) as a sophomore last season at Iowa, where he also became a well-regarded blocker.

A linebacker out of Hawaii, Tavai played both on the Warriors’ defensive line and at middle linebacker. He registered 16.5 sacks in four college seasons. Oruwariye arrives as a cornerback from Penn State.