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Meet the Newest New England Patriot: Chukwuma Okorafor

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Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (76) takes the field during player introductions before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. Okorafor is now with the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Justin Berl)

The Patriots added some depth to their offensive line on Thursday by bringing back exclusive rights free agent Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Later in the day it was reported that New England had signed another veteran lineman, Chukwuma Okorafor.

Okorafor played his entire six-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers to date. He is a veteran of 79 NFL games, including the postseason, with 61 starts. He started seven of the 14 games he appeared in during the 2023 season. Pittsburgh released Okorafor on Feb. 12, 2024. Okorafor’s release saved the Steelers $8.75 million in 2024 salary cap space while incurring a $3.08 million dead cap hit.

The native of Nigeria was a third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 92 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He played his college football for Western Michigan.

Chuckwuma Okorafor took over as a starting tackle in Week 1 of the 2020 season for Pittsburgh. He kept the starting job until Week 9 of last season, when he was benched in favor of first-round rookie Broderick Jones.

According to Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, Okorafor was discouraged by his in-season demotion. He stated following Pittsburgh’s season-ending playoff loss that he believed he was still capable of being a starting tackle in the NFL.

“That’s the plan, I think I’m young,” said Okorafor, who will turn 27 in August . “I feel like I’ve got a lot of ball left in me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if it’s here of if it’s going to be at a different spot.”

Chuckwruma Okorafor joins an offensive tackle group for the New England Patriots that includes Calvin Anderson, Vederian Lowe, Conor McDermott, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Andrew Stueber. Starting right guard Sidy Sow can also shift to tackle, where he played in college. Last season’s starters Mike Onwenu and Trent Brown are headed to free agency. New England has publicly expressed a desire for Onwenu to return.

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