Okudah's Contract With Lions Could Make Him Big Upgrade Over Slay


Even before the Lions traded Darius Slay, they seemed intent on replacing him with Jeff Okudah.

From a talent perspective, it's an early downgrade. Slay's a proven top 10 corner in the NFL, and it's unrealistic to think Okudah will play on the same level out of the gate. Cornerback is notoriously hard on rookies. 

But if Okudah fulfills his potential, it could be an upgrade for Detroit down the road. We know about Okudah's talent. We know about his work ethic. We know he's so committed to being great he won't stop picking the ear of Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. 

So let's talk about the money.

The four-year deal Okudah signed Monday is worth about $33.5 million, with a $22 million signing bonus. That works out to about $8.4 million per year. He'll have a cap hit of approximately $6 million this season, according to Spotrac

Slay wanted at least $15 million per year to stay in Detroit. He wound up getting about $16.7 million per year from the Eagles through 2023. His cap hit is lower than Okudah's this season based on how Philly structured his extension, but it jumps to $15.75 million in 2021 and continues to climb if he plays out his deal.

Okudah's cap hit will increase as well, but only to about $10.6 million by 2023. By then, Slay will cost the Eagles $20.75 million against the cap. Over the final three years of their respective deals, Slay's average cap hit is more than double that of Okudah. 

And here's the thing. Slay has probably hit his ceiling. Okudah's performance should continue to rise with his cost. He's the best prospect at his position since Jalen Ramsey. If he follows a similar arch as the three-time Pro Bowler, the Lions will have one of the top corners in the NFL as soon as next season, at a significantly lower price than Slay. 

That's the best-case scenario, of course. For all of Okudah's talent, there's no way of knowing for sure whether he'll thrive in the NFL. If he doesn't, the Lions will miss the No. 1 corner they used to have -- no matter what it would have cost to keep him.