The Detroit Lions started the offseason with a decent amount of cap space to work with, but after a week of free agency spending and some evolving needs, the team needed a bit more wiggle room to work with.
That’s why on Monday, March 20, it was revealed by ESPN insider Field Yates that edge rusher Romeo Okwara had agreed to a renegotiated deal. That move will lower his cap hit from just north of $14 million to just over $8 million dollars.
“Lions edge rusher Romeo Okwara agreed to a renegotiated contract that reduces his cap hit for 2023 down from $14.5M to $5.647M,” Yates tweeted.
That represents a savings of close to $8.8 million dollars for the Lions, which is significant given their cap situation at the moment. Detroit had in the neighborhood of $13 million left to spend. It will add to the mix some more money for Detroit to work with in terms of finding depth at offensive skill positions, or potentially even at wide receiver.
Restructuring that deal, along with the deal for fellow edge rusher Charles Harris last week which saved the Lions around $2.8 million dollars, has been helpful for Detroit. It allows them to stay aggressive not only trying to retain their own free agents, but bring new ones into the mix as well.
Additionally, the Lions will be able to have more money open to re-sign their draft class. For a veteran like Okwara to buy into this change is significant, and something to praise, indeed.
The move may help the Lions remain competitive on the free agency market in the days ahead.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai Lions’ Next Contract to Watch
While the news on Okwara’s renegotiation is certainly noteworthy, it isn’t the last potential shoe that could drop for Detroit in terms of a restructured deal.
In guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the Lions have a player who has seemed ripe for release given his contract situation. Vaitai is on the final two years of a five-year, $45 million dollar deal he signed in 2020. His injury history coming into 2023 may complicate matters given he missed 2022 with a back injury.
Vaitai, though, has not seen the Lions make a move made with regards to his deal within the first few weeks of the NFL offseason.
The team’s late-week addition of Graham Glasgow could eventually make it more likely that Vaitai is released, especially given the Lions would save around $9.5 million by designating Vaitai as a June 1 cut.
Vaitai, though, could still return. If the Lions find they need more space, they could renegotiate his deal and keep him around as a key part of their offensive line. When healthy, Vaitai has played a large role before for Detroit, as in 2021 when he spent most of the season healthy.
The Lions could feel comfortable with his cap situation as it is, or they could simply be taking their time with a restructure or eventual release. Either way, time is on Detroit’s side.
The situation will bear watching in the coming weeks as the offseason continues to evolve through March and early April.
Lions Could Make More Moves in Free Agency
Are the Lions done with making additions in free agency? Relative to the cap space they opened up with this move, that may not be the case.
In free agency, even after adding C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the mix in the defensive backfield, the team could look to sign an underrated free agent for the interior of the defensive line. Detroit might also like to bring in another linebacker to the mix to add some more veteran presence to that group.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions could decide to bring back wide receiver DJ Chark, who played a solid role for the team last season. Rumors of a reunion with Chark began to swirl late last week, and the extra cap space could be a catalyst for that move. Even if Chark doesn’t return, the team could look at another veteran wideout.
Additionally, the Lions might decide to look at a veteran tight end. That market offers some potential solutions for the Lions right now, and any could add a proven player to a spot that lacks a bit of bigger-name appeal.
Right now, the Lions remain in good shape because of some savvy moves by Brad Holmes. Getting names like Okwara and Harris to buy into slight pay cuts to help the team improve is significant for the Lions at this point of their rebuild.