DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions aggressively improved one of their weaknesses this offseason, signing a trio of defensive backs from other teams and keeping a pair of their own to bolster the secondary.
Those moves, at least in part, made cornerback Jeff Okudah expendable.
Detroit is trading Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth-round pick, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
Detroit drafted the former Ohio State star with the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, and injuries have stunted his career so far. Hamstring and shoulder ailments limited him to nine games as a rookie and he had a season-ending Achilles tendon injury one game into his second season.
Okudah stayed healthy and started in 15 games last year, showing signs of promise as a run-stopping cornerback and struggling at times under second-year coach Dan Campbell. He had his first interceptions last season, forced his first fumble and made 73 tackles.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes, who did not draft Okudah, likely was eager to make the trade to avoid paying him more than $10 million in 2023 possibly to be a backup.
Holmes began revamping the secondary last month by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers standout Cameron Sutton to a $33 million, three-year contract. He went on to add ex-Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson on an $8 million, one-year deal and former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on a one-year, $6 million deal.
The Lions also re-signed cornerback Will Harris and safety C.J. Moore as part of their busy offseason, which included adding former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery and former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Marvin Jones to a high-scoring offense.
In two weeks, Detroit has a chance to improve its roster even more with the No. 6 and No. 18 picks overall in the first round, a pair of second-round selections and a third-round pick in the draft.
The Lions won nine games last season, surpassing their combined total from the previous two years, and are aiming to win the division this year for the first time since 1993.
Atlanta went 7-10 in each of the last two years and has not had a winning record since 2017.