Romeo Okwara

Lions Activate WR Jameson Williams, DE Romeo Okwara

The Lions announced today that they will be adding two major pieces at a time when the team is playing its best football of the season. Rookie first-round pick Jameson Williams is set to make his NFL debut after spending the first 12 weeks of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list and defensive end Romeo Okwara is set to play his first football since October 3rd of last season.

Williams was a transfer student who joined the Crimson Tide after two seasons at Ohio State. In his lone season at Alabama, Williams dominated as the team’s No. 1 receiver. While teammate (and fellow rookie who also has yet to play an NFL snap) John Metchie III led the team in catches (96), Williams led the team in every other receiving category with his 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. A month after Metchie tore his ACL in the 2021 SEC Championship Game, Williams tore his in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Detroit has had to make do without many receiving options this year. Williams has been unavailable until now, free agent addition DJ Chark has only appeared in five games this year due to an ankle injury, and Quintez Cephus has been on injured reserve since the beginning of October, much like he was last year. With all those receivers out, second-year wide out Amon-Ra St. Brown has stepped up for a breakout year leading the team in receptions (65), receiving yards (716), and receiving touchdowns (4). Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds have also been asked to step up during the absences. It’s unclear how much Williams will be involved this week, so it might make sense for the Lions to play this week with a top-three of St. Brown, Raymond, and Chark, easing Williams into professional play and counting on Reynolds and Tom Kennedy in relief.

Okwara is in his fifth year with the Lions after spending two years as an undrafted free agent with the Giants. Detroit claimed the pass rusher off waivers from New York just before the 2018 season and he rewarded them immediately. Okwara started 14 games for the Lions in 15 appearances and led the team with 7.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits, adding eight tackles for loss for good measure. After a surprising down year in 2019 where Okwara saw his usage plummet, he came back with a vengeance in 2020. Okwara posted career highs in sacks (10.0), tackles for loss (11.0), and quarterback hits (18) leading the team in each category by a mile. Okwara saw his 2021 season end with a torn Achilles tendon in Week 4 and hasn’t seen the football field since, spending all of this season so far on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

The Lions pass rush could certainly use the 2020-version of Okwara. The team’s sack leader this year in rookie No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, who only has 5.5 sacks. After Hutchinson, Detroit has three players tied with two sacks apiece. One of those players is Okwara’s younger brother Julian Okwara. The younger Okwara brother is unfortunately headed to IR after injuring his elbow in the team’s Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Bills. Unless the team feels strongly about bringing the third-year outside linebacker back for the final two games of the regular season, his year may be over. Activating Romeo is a big boost but losing your second-most effective pass rusher for the season in Julian hurts.

In addition to the team’s three reserve list transactions, the Lions will also promote center Ross Pierschbacher from the practice squad as a standard gameday elevation against the Jaguars this week.

Lions Designate Romeo Okwara, DJ Chark For Return, Aiming For Late-Season Jameson Williams Look

Coming off their second straight win, the Lions made some notable transactions Wednesday. They designated Romeo Okwara and DJ Chark for return.

In his third season with Detroit, Okwara has been on the team’s reserve/PUP list all season. He has been recovering from a torn Achilles for more than 13 months. Chark has been out since Week 3. The free agency pickup his now missed 19 games over the past two seasons.

While Chark returning stands to bolster a Lions attack that has seen its top skill-position players either miss time (Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift) or be traded (T.J. Hockenson), the Lions’ plans with Jameson Williams take big-picture precedence. Still sidelined from the ACL tear he suffered in last season’s national championship game, Williams remains in the picture for this season’s Lions. The team is hoping for Williams to return to practice after Thanksgiving, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets.

It would be a nice bonus for the rebuilding Lions to have Williams see game action this season, but that may not be a guarantee. The team has been cautious with the first-round pick. Previous reports indicated a midseason return to practice was in play, but the franchise has pushed back the timetable. Considering the current team’s status and Williams’ long-term importance to the organization, it is unsurprising his rehab run is approaching the 11-month mark.

The Lions having a St. Brown-Chark-Williams trio together for this season’s final games would represent a nice evaluation window for the future. St. Brown and Williams will almost certainly be 2023 Lions starters. It is unclear if Chark will be in the team’s post-2022 plans. The former Jaguars second-rounder, who signed a one-year deal worth $10MM in March, missed almost all of last season with a broken ankle. An injury to that same ankle has shelved Chark this year. After initially leaving him on their 53-man roster, the Lions moved Chark to IR. He has seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in his Detroit debut.

Okwara, 27, remains attached to the three-year, $37MM deal he signed in 2021. The Lions have rostered the elder Okwara since 2018, when they claimed him off waivers from the Giants. He has 10- and 7.5-sack seasons on his Detroit resume, with the 10-sack campaign in 2020 prompting the Lions to re-sign him. The seventh-year edge rusher has not yet seen extended run with younger brother Julian, whom the Lions drafted in the 2020 third round.

Both Chark and Romeo Okwara can be moved onto the Lions’ 53-man roster at any point over the next three weeks. Residing on Detroit’s reserve/NFI list, Williams would have the same timeline once he returns to practice. The Lions are in fairly good shape, activation-wise, holding five going into Week 11.

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.

Edge Notes: Ravens, Lions, Browning, Hawks

After letting both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk during the 2021 free agency period, the Ravens acquired a first-round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. The team entered the draft determined to use one of its two first-round choices on an edge defender, but strategy played a role in the team ending up with Odafe Oweh. The Ravens would have been happy with either Oweh or Greg Rousseau, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes, but also wanted to leave last year’s first round with a wide receiver.

We heard previously the Ravens expected the Packers to select Bateman, whom several execs viewed as the team most likely to draft the Big Ten prospect. That played into Baltimore’s edge defender blueprint as well. The team had Oweh and Rousseau ranked similarly on its 2021 draft board, Zrebiec adds, leading to Bateman being prioritized with the No. 27 pick. Waiting for No. 31 to make its edge rusher selection paid off, as Oweh remained on the board. The Bills took Rousseau at 30. (The Packers took cornerback Eric Stokes at 29.) Through 1 1/4 seasons, Oweh has six sacks, four forced fumbles and 17 quarterback hits. Rousseau checks in with similar production, having tallied eight sacks — four already this season — along with one strip and 16 QB hits.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s edge defender landscape:

  • The Ravens used Jason Pierre-Paul extensively alongside Oweh in Week 4, playing the recently signed veteran on 55 defensive snaps. Their one-year Pierre-Paul deal is worth $1.35MM, according to OverTheCap. The contract includes a $150K signing bonus and playing time- and sack-based incentives that could take the price north of $5MM, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. This is a lower-priced deal than JPP is accustomed to signing, but he has a chance to be the rare free agent to sign in-season and earn potentially far more than the veteran minimum.
  • The Lions will be waiting a bit longer to deploy their two-Okwara edge-rushing attack. Eligible to return from the Lions’ PUP list this week, Romeo Okwara will likely need more time to recover from his 2021 injury, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Okwara, who suffered an Achilles tear just more than a year ago, did not return to practice this week when first eligible.
  • Detroit’s pass rush, when at full strength, is set to include Romeo and Julian Okwara, Charles Harris and first- and second-round picks Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal. That said, the Lions are adding another edge rusher to the equation. Rookie UDFA Demetrius Taylor is going to play defensive end in his debut this week, Birkett notes. Signed as a UDFA defensive tackle, Taylor will shift to a big D-end role as the Lions attempt to pick up the pieces on defense. This will likely lead to Hutchinson, who had previously played the team’s “big end” spot, rushing from around the formation, per Birkett. Taylor saw some time at D-end at Appalachian State.
  • It will not be second-round pick Nik Bonitto getting the call to replace Randy Gregory; Baron Browning will play that role for the Broncos beginning Thursday night, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. This will be an interesting stretch for Browning, whom the Broncos used as an inside linebacker during his 2021 rookie season. The third-round pick moved to the outside this offseason, helping lead to the late-August Malik Reed trade, and has impressed the coaching staff. Bonitto, who began the season as a healthy scratch despite being Denver’s top 2022 draftee, will see more time as a rotational cog behind Browning and Bradley Chubb.
  • The Seahawks will give second-rounder Boye Mafe more playing time, Pete Carroll said this week. This will be interesting considering the rookie logged a season-high 32 defensive snaps against the Lions. Mafe, who has one sack thus far this season, registered 10 in his final college campaign.

Lions Hoping For Midseason Jameson Williams Return

The Lions made the expected move of shifting Jameson Williams to their reserve/non-football injury list Tuesday. The first-round pick tore an ACL in the national championship game and was never expected to start the season on time.

Detroit is, however, hoping for a midseason Williams debut, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Williams, this year’s No. 12 overall pick, must miss at least four games because of Tuesday’s transaction.

GM Brad Holmes greenlit a 20-spot trade-up in the first round for Williams, who dominated in his one season at Alabama. After sitting behind Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Co. at Ohio State, Williams transferred and became the Crimson Tide’s top pass catcher in 2021. The import speedster caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns, teaming with John Metchie to help Bryce Young win the Heisman Trophy. Both receivers went down, however, before season’s end. Metchie, chosen 44th overall by the Texans, will not play in 2022, announcing a leukemia diagnosis.

Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark reside as Jared Goff‘s top wideouts to start the season, but if Williams’ rehab goes according to plan, the Lions should be able to see a handful of games from their highest-drafted receiver since Calvin Johnson (2007).

The Lions also placed edge defenders Romeo Okwara and Josh Paschal and fullback Jason Cabinda on the reserve/PUP list, sidelining the trio for the season’s first four games. Okwara suffered a torn Achilles in Week 4 of last season. During spring workouts, Paschal aggravated a core injury initially sustained while at Kentucky and underwent offseason surgery. The Lions will be careful with their second-round pick, leaving Aidan Hutchinson as the only first- or second-round Detroit draftee set for September action.

Lions Place Three Players On PUP, Two On NFI List

The Lions are the latest team to announce the list of players who will be sidelined for the start of training camp this week. An announcement on their website confirms three additions to the active/PUP list, and a pair of players who are now on the non-football injury list. 

Included among the former group is edge rusher Romeo OkwaraThe 27-year-old was limited to just four games played in 2021, as he suffered a torn Achilles in October. That marked a disappointing start to the three-year extension he signed the previous offseason, and left his training camp availability very much in doubt. When he returns, he will look to return to his 2020 form, in which he totalled a career-high 10 sacks.

Another key defender on the shelf is cornerback Jerry Jacobs. In his rookie season last year, the Arkansas alum started nine of 13 games as Jeff Okudah‘s campaign was limited to a single contest. Jacobs registered a 61% snap share before himself suffering a torn ACL in December. He should be in line for a significant role once again this season.

Second-round rookie Josh Paschal is the final inclusion on the PUP list. He was sidelined during spring workouts, though it is unclear if today’s move is the result of complications recovering from that injury, or of a new one. Head coach Dan Campbell said, “We’re trying to be smart with him,” adding that Paschal has “got a lower extremity injury.” The Kentucky product will feature in the team’s new-look defensive front when he is back on the field, which should be the case soon.

The situation is different, of course, for rookie wideout Jameson WilliamsThe No. 12 overall pick suffered an ACL tear in the national title game (which is why he is being placed on the NFI list, rather than PUP). General manager Brad Holmes recently spoke about his and the team’s optimism that a full recovery will be made. That likely won’t happen in time for the start of the regular season, but when he does make his debut, the Alabama product will add a dynamic speed element to Detroit’s passing attack.

The other NFI inclusion is linebacker Natrez Patrick, who signed as a free agent after spending the past two seasons with the Rams. He, like any of the other four players, can be activated at any time before the regular season kicks off.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Defense

After looking at this year’s top salary cap numbers on the offensive side of the ball, here is a rundown of the players counting the most toward their teams’ payrolls in 2022.

As could be expected, the salary figures here start below the quarterbacks. A few pass rushers, however, are tied to notable cap hits. Those numbers that check in within the top 20 leaguewide regardless of position. With the exception of true nose tackles and pure slot cornerbacks, every defensive position is represented here.

Here are the top cap figures on the defensive side for the ’22 season:

  1. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $31.12MM
  2. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $29.42MM
  3. Joey Bosa, OLB (Chargers): $28.25MM
  4. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $27.3MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DT (Rams): $27MM
  6. Jalen Ramsey, CB (Rams): $23.2MM
  7. Deion Jones, LB (Falcons): $20.1MM
  8. Bud Dupree, OLB (Titans): $19.2MM
  9. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.85MM
  10. Javon Hargrave, DT (Eagles): $17.8MM
  11. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $17.5MM
  12. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $17.42MM
  13. Robert Quinn, DE (Bears): $17.14MM
  14. Matt Judon, OLB (Patriots): $16.5MM
  15. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $16MM
  16. Shaquill Griffin, CB (Jaguars): $16.44MM
  17. Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills): $16.4MM
  18. J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): $15.9MM
  19. Marcus Peters, CB (Ravens): $15.5MM
  20. Carl Lawson, DE (Jets): $15.33MM
  21. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $15.1MM
  22. Lavonte David, LB (Buccaneers): $14.79MM
  23. Budda Baker, S (Cardinals): $14.78MM
  24. Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): $14.5MM
  25. Trey Hendrickson, DE (Bengals): $14.49MM
  • Illustrating how much the cap has climbed over the past several seasons, T.J. Watt is tied to a number nearly twice that of J.J. Watt, who has been tied to $16.7MM-per-year (a defender-record number in 2014) and $14MM-AAV deals as a pro. Trailing his older brother in Defensive Player of the Year honors, T.J. is signed to an edge defender-record $28MM-per-year accord.
  • Jones’ four-year Chiefs deal vaults from an $8.5MM cap number in 2021 to the league’s second-highest defensive figure this year. The standout defensive tackle’s cap hit accompanies Patrick Mahomes‘ $35.79MM number, which is well north of his 2021 figure, on Kansas City’s new-look payroll.
  • After two franchise tags, Williams scored a monster extension in 2021. The well-paid Giants D-lineman’s cap number this year is way up from his 2021 number ($9.4MM).
  • The Rams redid Donald’s contract last month, adding no new years to the through-2024 pact. The all-world defender’s cap hit actually decreases in 2023, dropping to $26MM
  • It is not certain Deion Jones will be back with the Falcons, who have jettisoned other Super Bowl LI cornerstones from the roster since the current regime took over in 2021. But they would save just $1MM were they to release the seventh-year linebacker.
  • To date, this represents the high-water mark for Mosley cap hits on his Jets deal, which at the time (2019) began a sea change for off-ball linebacker contracts. Mosley’s cap hit, on a pact that runs through 2024 because of the linebacker opting out of the 2020 season, increased by $10MM from 2021-22.
  • Hargrave is one of five Eagles pass rushers signed to veteran contracts. The ex-Steeler’s 2021 deal accompanies Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Fletcher Cox‘s new agreement on Philadelphia’s defensive front. As cap hits do not reflect average salaries, Hargrave is the only member of this quartet tied to an eight-figure cap number in 2022.
  • Quinn has also been connected to a departure, with the 31-year-old pass rusher skipping minicamp after it became known he would like to be traded away from the rebuilding team. His cap hit tops the Bears’ payroll. The Bears would save $12.9MM by trading Quinn, should another team sign up for taking on his full 2022 base salary.

Lions’ Romeo Okwara Done For Year

The Lions’ fear has been confirmed. Edge rusher Romeo Okwara has been diagnosed with a torn Achilles that will rule him out for the remainder of the season (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). 

The Lions will place Okwara on the injured reserve list, opening up a new spot on the 53-man roster. Replacing his production will be a different matter. Now at 0-4, the Lions’ odds of righting the ship have gone down drastically. They’ve already lost cornerback Jeff Okudah — also an Achilles tear — and they’re still awaiting Trey Flowers‘ return from shoulder and knee issues. Plus, Lions center Frank Ragnow was also forced out this week with a toe injury, though that seems to be a short-term matter.

Doctors — and non-medical professionals — could immediately tell that Okwara was in bad shape. The pass rusher was in obvious pain on Sunday and couldn’t put weight on his left leg as he hobbled off the field.

Okwara registered a career-high ten sacks last year with 44 stops, three forced fumbles, and 18 total quarterback hits. And, through the first three games this year, he was Detroit’s most productive defender. The Lions will be counting on Flowers (if healthy), Charles Harris, Julian Okwara, and Austin Bryant for support as they search for win No. 1.

Torn Achilles For Lions’ Romeo Okwara?

On Sunday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters that Romeo Okwara‘s lower leg injury “doesn’t look good.” More specifically, sources believe that the edge rusher has torn his Achilles (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

Tomorrow’s tests will confirm Okwara’s condition, but it doesn’t sound promising. A torn Achilles would instantly end the 26-year-old’s season and leave Detroit without one of its best defenders.

Okwara re-upped with the Lions on three-year, $39MM deal in March with $25MM guaranteed. He registered a career-high ten sacks last year, setting himself up for another impactful season.

Similar to Shaquil Barrett — who scored a $72MM deal from the Bucs — Okwara was hardly known just a few years ago. He missed the Giants’ 53-man cut in ’18, but he developed into something of a sack machine. The Lions didn’t get to see much of that in 2021, unfortunately. In his four games, Okwara has notched just one sack with six stops.

The Lions are now 0-4 after losing 24-14 to the Bears in Chicago. Already on the cusp of playoff irrelevance, they’ll try for their first win next week against the Vikings.

Lions Notes: Okwara, Onwuzurike, Tavai

The Lions have a new regime in place, led by head coach Dan Campbell. Often times, coaching changes put incumbent players on the chopping block, but that’s not necessarily the case for 2019 second-round pick Jahlani Tavai.

I tell you what, I’ve been really impressed with Jahlani,” linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said (via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News). “He’s been here (and) he’s been doing a great job. He’s in really good shape right now. I’m excited to work with him. I’m excited for us to get to OTAs and be able to continue with him because I’m really excited about him.”

I can just tell you when he came out when he was out on the field this week, he’s been doing well and I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far. He has a really good understanding of the game. I think he’s gonna be a nice piece for us to work within this scheme.”

The Lions are exploring their options at LB, including newcomer Alex Anzalone, who has history with Campbell. Tavai, meanwhile, has failed to impress in his two pro seasons. After notching two tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception as a rookie, Tavai didn’t make much of an impact last year. He appeared in all 16 games and made ten starts, but earned poor marks from Pro Football Focus across the board, including a dismal 35.7 score for his coverage. Still, the Lions seem to think that this can be a turning point for the young ‘backer.

More from Detroit:

  • The Lions’ new scheme will push Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara to outside linebacker, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes.”He’s got a great skill set for what we’re trying to do,” defensive line coach Todd Wash said of Flowers, who inked a $90MM deal to play DE. “Every one of the players that we have on our defensive roster have a skill set. It’s going to be our job obviously as coaches to put them in that position to be successful, and I think Trey has that skill set as a defensive end in base and also in sub.” Flowers won’t be alone — there will be adjustments across the front seven as Detroit commits to a base 3-4 set under Campbell.
  • New second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike will be slotted in as a defensive end that moves inside on clear passing downs, defensive line coach Todd Wash says (Twitter link via Rogers).
  • Before the Lions signed Dan Campbell, they also explored Iowa State coach Matt Campbell as a candidate. But, despite a report to the contrary, it sounds like they never made a formal offer.