Falcons failed experiment among NFL players with most to prove in 2024

NFL: SEP 24 Falcons at Lions

The Falcons didn’t have many notable free agents to hit the open market.

The two most prominent were Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, the team’s co-sack leaders from a year ago. Dupree signed a two-year deal to join the Chargers, while Campbell signed with the Dolphins.

Outside of the pair of veteran defenders, the Falcons watched Cordarrelle Patterson follow Arthur Smith to Pittsburgh; Jonnu Smith joined the Dolphins in free agency, and Jeff Okudah signed a one-year pact with the Texans.

The last of which is heading into a pivotal season in Houston, so much so that Pro Football Focus believes Okudah is one of the 10 players with the most to prove in the upcoming 2024 campaign.

Okudah was a clear-cut CB1 during the 2020 draft, even regarded by some analysts as the best corner prospect in several classes. Yet Okudah has been anything but exceptional since he entered the league, never finishing with an overall grade above 60.0. The Lions shipped Okudah to Atlanta, where he hardly fared much better in a one-year stint.

The Texans inked Okudah to a one-year, $4.75 million deal this offseason, seeking cornerback depth next to burgeoning stud Derek Stingley Jr. Okudah has an opportunity to claim the CB2 role if he fends off rookie Kamari Lassiter — but if not, it’s hard to envision Okudah earning another opportunity to regularly contribute on defense anywhere.

When the Falcons traded a fifth-round pick for Okudah last offseason, hopes were high that a change of scenery would benefit the former No. 3 overall pick. The deal didn’t work out for either side.

An injury kept him off the field for the first couple of games, but Okudah found his footing when he got healthy. However, as the season progressed, he dealt with similar struggles that have plagued him during his career — inconsistencies and injuries.

Eventually, he was benched in favor of Clark Phillips, a rookie fifth-round pick. The chances of Okudah returning were always slim, and he lands in an excellent situation with the Texans and DeMeco Ryans.

If he can succeed anywhere, the Falcons failed experiment should have a good chance of rekindling something in Houston.

Photographer: Steven King/Icon Sportswire

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