The Detroit Lions made cornerback Jeff Okudah’s future clear after an offseason of uncertainty when they traded the 24-year-old Ohio State alum to the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions revamped their secondary entirely, and the Falcons are doing something similar.
That meant new opportunities for a number of players, but it also meant shipping Okudah out of Detroit. Given that the compensation matches a number of other NFL cornerback trades recently, we might be able to determine who won and who lost.
Jeff Okudah Trade Details
Okudah was traded on April 13, 2023.
The Atlanta Falcons received:
- CB Jeff Okudah
The Detroit Lions received:
- 2023 fifth-round pick, No. 159 overall (WR Dontayvion Wicks)
The Falcons traded away the pick they received in the Calvin Ridley deal for Okudah. The Lions did not retain the pick, instead trading it to the Packers as part of a larger package along with the No. 48 overall pick for the No. 45 overall pick, which they used to select safety Brian Branch.
The trade eliminated Okudah’s eligibility for a fifth-year option, meaning he will hit free agency after the 2023 season.
Players Involved in the Jeff Okudah Trade
The pick from the Ridley trade was used to acquire Okudah, so in a way, Ridley is involved. Wicks was drafted by Green Bay from the picks and the Lions needed to use the pick to trade up a few spots for Branch.
Winners and Losers of the Jeff Okudah Trade
Okudah has had some flashes as a cornerback, but he hasn’t put together a complete or consistent season since being drafted in the first round in 2020.
The Lions walked a fine line in public conversations about whether they would offer Okudah a fifth-year option instead of the more enthusiastic language they’ve used with players they’ve offered that option to.
It ultimately didn’t matter because the trade included the Lions paying $1.5 million of Okudah’s 2023 salary as one of the conditions. That nullified the possibility of a fifth-year option by NFL rule, meaning the Falcons only have one year of control over Okudah’s services.
He certainly hasn’t played up to the expectations of the third overall pick, but he also hasn’t played so poorly that he’s a clear bust, either. Injury concerns in his background reduce his value in the trade market as well.
As a young player, Okudah has some value that an older player with a stronger history of play doesn’t have. That’s one reason Okudah and Stephon Gilmore went for essentially the same price despite Gilmore playing like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last year.
Other first-round cornerbacks, like Mike Hughes and Eli Apple, were traded for Day 3 picks as well, with Okudah’s trade value falling between the two.
Because the Apple trade occurred midseason, the price was a bit higher — a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick — but one can’t help but wonder if the price for Okudah could have been a little higher.
In that sense, the Lions come out of the trade as small losers, though they more than made up that ground with their subsequent moves, like drafting Brian Branch and signing three other starting quality defensive backs in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley, and Cameron Sutton.
The Falcons, who need starting talent at cornerback but don’t have an enormous number of resources to address every position, do get a player they can field as a trial run and offer a long-term contract to if they need to.
After signing Jessie Bates III and drafting Clark Phillips III, the Falcons are beginning to build a formidable secondary around A.J. Terrell. If Okudah can tap into his potential, they’ll have very quickly turned around a very problematic defense.
This is a low-cost move for the team, so they come out as winners. Okudah, who was on the outs with the organization and may need a new environment, also comes out as a winner. With a strong secondary developing around him, he might also have a little bit more freedom to develop as a player.
Branch enters an exciting defensive environment with a lot of versatility, so he ends up as a winner. Wicks has a clear path to playing time, so even if he’s playing with an unproven quarterback, he can count himself a bit luckier than most fifth-round picks at receiver.