Its just seven days until training camp begins, so I will be counting the days down one at a time, highlighting 7 players who i believe must use this training camp to cement their place on the team. This piece won’t include obvious picks, such as longshot UDFAs or clear camp bodies. No, this list will be 7 players who you may expect to make the 53, but it may not be as clear cut as you believe. So read on, and at the end, voice your opinion in the poll and comments below and let me know what you think- expendable talent, or necessary depth?
Alex Okafor, linebacker, came into the league as a fourth round pick in 2013 out of Texas. He’s 25 years old with 62 tackles and 10 career sacks.
Okafor, like Ellington is due to count as 1.67 million against the cap in the final season under his rookie contract, after hitting performance escalators. There’s not a whole lot of money tied up at the position- Chandler Jones is earning 7.7 mil this year, and Golden, Martin, and Riddick are all making less than 1 mil each.
Chandler Jones is the top guy in this room. Realistically, Okafor could fit anywhere from #2 and starting to a rotational pass rusher to bottom of the depth chart. Training camp is crucial. Kareem Martin himself is also fighting for a roster spot, while Golden and Riddick are now just second year players. Add in CFL pick up Tristan Okpalaugo, and 2015 UDFA Zack Wagenmann
After appearing in just one game during his rookie season, Alex Okafor had a surprising sophomore campaign, logging 8 sacks in just 13 games. 2015 therefore came as a disappointment, as he logged just 2 sacks before mysteriously landing on IR with a toe injury during the team’s bye week.
The Bottom Line:
Dwight Freeney would have made this room incredibly crowded, so perhaps it’s a good thing for Okafor he remains (for now) unsigned. They kept 5 OLBs on last years roster, so my guess currently is that Okafor fits in with Chandler Jones, Golden, and Riddick, with Martin, Wagenmann and Okpalaugo fighting for the last spot. Then again, if Wagenmann and Okpalaugo both shine, does Okafor find himself on the outside looking in? Would you rather keep those upside players over Okafor, or do you roll the dice he returns to 2014 form in what is a contract year?