Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye signed a one year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, reportedly worth around $2 million dollars. By signing Okoye, the Bucs add much needed depth and even a possible starter to the roster. His arrival also can be connected to coach Greg Schiano, who saw Okoye up close every year during his time at Louisville. Okoye was a four year starter for the Louisville Cardinals during coach Schiano’s tenure at Rutgers, so there is a familiarity with each other.
More importantly, Okoye brings with him a production level unmatched by current Bucs defensive tackles. Though Okoye has only been a starter in two of his five seasons, he has racked up 165 career tackles and 15 career sacks. Between Brian Price, Roy Miller, Frank Okam and Gerald McCoy combined, the unit has only 10 career sacks. Their total of 215 tackles collectively only surpass Okoye by 50 total.
Okoye had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign and 4 sacks last season during relief duty. Only Gerald McCoy comes close, notching a 4 sack season in his own rookie year. Okoye’s 27 tackles and 4 sacks last season also would have made him the most productive tackle on the Bucs roster. Though Roy Miller finished with 36 total tackles in 2011, he did not do much else.
In fairness, both McCoy and Price have been riddled with injury the past two seasons which has limited their production levels. When healthy McCoy brings with him plenty of intangibles which affect nearly every play when he is on the field. The same cannot be said for Price and Miller. It would not be a stretch to believe Okoye could be an opening day starter. With several teams in pursuit of Okoye’s services during free agency, it is likely Okoye saw an opportunity to start in Tampa and just as likely coach Schiano promised open competition.
At worst, the Bucs have a solid reserve which can bring stability to a position which has been anything but. At best, Okoye produces at a high level and creates one of the better inside tandems in the league beside Gerald McCoy. While the “Big 3″ have garnered most of the attention, the signing of Okoye could end up being just as significant.