Seth Cox, one of our friends and the Editor-in-Chief of SB Nation's Revenge of the Birds on the Arizona Cardinals, was kind enough to answer a few questions about one of the new additions to the New Orleans Saints: Linebacker Alex Okafor.
With the reported contract on Okafor reported "up to $3 million" including incentives. Is this a contract you wish the Cardinals would have offered? Or are you happy to see him go at this price?
There was no way Arizona could afford to pay a known backup that type of money when he was not going to get the opportunity to earn that type of money here without an injury to a starter. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden were the starters, that was not going to change, so Okafor took a chance on himself that he will get the playing time and prove New Orleans right.
He was an integral piece to the Cardinals speed package, which was Jones/Golden/Okafor/Calais Campbell. He gave them the flexibility to move Golden and Jones inside if needed and still be good enough to get a push outside. He may not be a starter or high sack guy for Arizona, but he was a valuable asset.
A Defensive End in college and Linebacker in the NFL, capable of playing in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme, where do you see Okafor's best fit in the NFL moving forward?
Rushing the passer, whether that be standing or with a hand in the dirt, he has the ability to be a nice clean up guy. He is not a primary pass rusher, but as part of a package or working as a low end “two” opposite a good “one”, he is going to be able to produce in the 6-8 sack range with enough snaps.
Do you foresee the need for Okafor to go under the knife after his biceps injury? Would you consider Okafor "injury-prone" at this point in his career?
He was hurt as a rookie, in his first game... against the Saints. From there he got chances but never fully grabbed onto them. His eight sacks as a second year player, basically a rookie, gave the Cardinals some confidence in him. Then the next year he was inconsistent and hurting, then there was a random injury at home over the Bye week in the first round of the playoffs, and he basically was on watch to be gone since then. He turned in a nice 2016 season as that situational guy, and Arizona wanted him back, so he clearly rebuilt that trust, but they also couldn't afford to invest in someone who has been knicked up his entire career.
Assuming Okafor is best suited rushing the passer, what would you say is Okafor's biggest weakness in his game?
He is maddeningly average at everything. He will have good games, then seem to disappear in others. He was expected to take the next step in 2015 after his eight sack 2014. He started 13 games and looked overmatched and overwhelmed. From there, Arizona knew they didn't want to count on him as a pass rusher, so they made the trade for Chandler Jones.
He is not a bad player at all, you just have to know what he is and have realistic expectations. I don't see him as a high end sack guy, but like I said, give him snaps and a strong pass rusher on the opposite side, and he could be a six sack guy.
What can Saints fans expect out of Okafor moving forward as a potential defensive starter or as a rotational piece behind a 2017 first-round Defensive End?
Good effort guy, smart, understands his role. He won't ever overwhelm or be the best player on the field, but he can be a contributor and is one of those guys every team needs on their roster. I think he is a better situational guy, as a starter he seems to be someone you are always looking to upgrade, but he has a place and a purpose.
Thank-you, Seth, for taking the time to talk with us! Saints fans, make sure you check out Seth’s work over at Revenge of the Birds. You can follow them on Twitter at @RevengeofBirds and you can follow Seth @SCoxFB. Of course, as always, you can follow me on Twitter @dunnellz.