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Efe Obada & The Success of the International Pathway Program

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The Buffalo Bills have signed edge rusher Efe Obada to a one-year deal worth up to $2.2 million (per ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques and NFL Draft Diamonds).

While Obada (pronounced Oh-Bah-Dah) is not a blockbuster signing, he still adds good rotational depth to a maligned defensive line. He is not just a former Carolina Panther but, like beloved Bills RB Christian Wade, a product of the International Pathway Program (IPP). Buffalo Fanatics’ own Rico Belony referred to the IPP as a “blessing” (on Twitter) for the opportunity it provides to both team and players. Without it, it is highly unlikely Obada is a member of the Bills.

What is the IPP?

According to former NFL Executive VP of International & Events Mark Waller, the IPP was formed in 2017 “to provide international athletes with the opportunity to play in the league”.

If an IPP player does not make a team outright, they can join a practice squad with an exempt status for up to two seasons before hitting free agency. Obada is one of a few players to not only make a roster through the program but play a significant role for their team.

The bottom line for IPP-sourced players is that it is extremely difficult to make it in the NFL. To do so is a notable achievement and represents excellent qualities in the player both on and off the field.

Expectations in Buffalo

Obada will provide the Bills with much-needed rotational depth at the DE position. His most notable attribute is his size. Obada (6’6”, 265 lbs) presents a powerful frame and can use it to great effect both outside and inside the defensive line. The four-year pro has played in 42 games, posting 47 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three passes defended, and one interception. This is impressive production for a rotational DE, which could be a reason why the Bills signed him. (In 2020, Obada posted career highs in solo tackles and sacks totaling 13 and 5.5, respectively.)

That said, what will the expectation be for Obada in Buffalo? Or what should it be? BF contributors Gage Azeez and Zach Vaughn assert that Obada is an optimal replacement for Quinton Jefferson.

He will compete with Darryl “Bam” Johnson, Mike Love, and Bryan Cox Jr. for the DE4 or DE5 role. Furthermore, Obada’s presence on the roster could add pressure to players like Mario Addison to elevate their play. At age 28, Obada brings some needed youth to the Bills defense. (It could be argued that his rotational role makes his “on-field age” lower than his actual age.)

DARKHORSE BONUS POINTS

  • Born in Nigeria, Obada and his sister were uprooted time and again until ending up homeless in England. He grew up in foster care and all these harsh experiences fueled his growth into becoming a great man.
  • Obada first played football in British leagues in 2014, playing DE and TE for the London Warriors. He also made stops with the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and Atlanta Falcons before catching on with Carolina through the IPP.
  • Obada and Christian Wade are good friends and mutual motivators. Both players hail from the UK as well.
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