New broke from the Advocate’s Nick Underhill that the New Orleans Saints will be re-signing defensive end Alex Okafor later today; NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport immediately delivered more details, reporting that Okafor will be signing a two-year contract worth as much as $10-million. This was quickly confirmed by Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune and Underhill’s peer at the Advocate, Joel Erickson.
Alex Okafor keeping his outside shoulder clean to get Stefon Diggs to run out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/Gx2gOZNSEj— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) November 6, 2017
This is a big win for the Saints in a few different ways. Okafor first visited with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this week, but returned to New Orleans in the end. Losing a good player to a division rival would not have been optimal. Okafor was a force last year against both the run and the pass, ranking 14th among the NFL’s defensive tackles and edge rushers with 31 combined sacks and tackles for loss before his injury. Once he’s healthy he should be able to return to form as a key piece of the defensive end rotation - though whether his body can hold up to a starter’s share of the snap count remains to be seen.
As far as the rest of free agency and the draft, this helps the Saints bump pass rusher down from a “must-address” to a “need” or maybe even a luxury, if they really like what they have on the roster. Personally I don’t see an upper-level combination out of Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Al-Quaddin Muhammad, and George Johnson opposite Cameron Jordan, but who knows. They won’t have to move heaven and earth to get a warm body at defensive end on draft day now, but could definitely consider someone if they become available at the right spot - that’s the cue for Ohio State Buckeyes edge terror Sam Hubbard.
Alex Okafor hitting Riley Rieff with the olé for a TFL on Jerick McKinnon. pic.twitter.com/IouDDnznoA— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) November 6, 2017
Here’s what Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 staff had to say when reviewing Okafor’s 2017 tape, ranking him 27 out of 75 qualifiers:
After recording 5.5 sacks in 2015 and 2016 combined, Alex Okafor entered the offseason as a potential roster-bubble veteran. Signing just a one-year, $2 million deal with the New Orleans Saints, Okafor wasn’t projected to be close to a starter. Before an Achilles injury ended his season, he won the starting job opposite Cameron Jordan, earning him 10 starts on the year. His quick hands and feet led to many run stuffs. Overall, he had one of the more surprising seasons (in a good way) before he went on the injured reserve list. Expect him to have a market if he’s able to recover to 100 percent.
From Sunday: Alex Okafor working down the line faster than Doug Martin can make a decision. pic.twitter.com/CZUT4lP97L— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) November 6, 2017
It’s also interesting that Okafor is re-signing on the same day the Saints host free agent all-star Ndamukong Suh on a visit. Suh plays defensive tackle and hypothetically would line up alongside Okafor early and often should he sign with New Orleans. Stay tuned.