After missing the last six games of 2017 due to a torn Achilles which landed him on Injured Reserve, there were questions about when Alex Okafor would be able to return to football. Even still, there were questions surrounding what type of player he would be once he was finally able to suit up.
In an impressive showing of strength, conditioning, and mental determination, Okafor was ready for Week 1 of the 2018 season, and played (and started) all 16 games for the New Orleans Saints last year. It admittedly took a few games before Okafor looked like his former self on tape, but he still finished with a strong season. All in all, Okafor combined for 36 total tackles, 9 quarterback hits, 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, one pass defended, and one fumble recovery.
In the postseason, Okafor added another three tackles, including one for loss, and three quarterback hits.
Alex Okafor - At a Glance
- Approximate Value: 7 (tied career high)
- Defense Grade: 69.4 (43rd)
- Run Defense Grade: 68.3 (45th)
- Pass Rush Grade: 60.5 (67th)
- Coverage Grade: 71.3
By Week 7, Okafor looked like the player Saints fans were used to seeing in 2017. Look at his pursuit of the quarterback and persistence on this play:
Alex Okafor takes down Flacco for a 10-yard loss! #NOvsBAL pic.twitter.com/sOTgECMXol— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 21, 2018
The sack helped add Drew Brees to the short list of Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as only the third quarterback in NFL history to have registered a win against each of the 32 NFL teams.
Okafor’s lone fumble recovery for the Saints in 2018 was a big one, helping the Saints still a victory from the jaws of defeat against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kurt Coleman punches it out and Alex Okafor recovers!#PITvsNO pic.twitter.com/xphPHm9oNx— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 24, 2018
With the NFC South and the #1 seed in the NFC all but locked up, the Saints elected to rest their starters in their Week 17 contest against the Carolina Panthers. Sitting Okafor and making sure he was instead healthy for the start of the postseason meant Okafor missed out on his $400,000 bonus he was set to receive if he reached 5 sacks on the season. With only four sacks in 2018, the Saints elected to pay Okafor the bonus anyway in what was a classy move by the organization.
Great stuff from Alex Okafor about the Saints rewarding him a $400,000 bonus. He needed 5 sacks for the bonus, only got 4, but the Saints paid him the bonus anyway. @aokafor57— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) January 2, 2019
...was first reported by @FieldYates pic.twitter.com/DehajWluur
Okafor is set to be a free agent this offseason. To a team that was patient with Okafor’s healthy after his Achilles injury and “did right by” Okafor in paying the $400,000 bonus that they were not required to pay, hopefully this built up some good will to entice Okafor to stick around for at least one more year.