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Ogunjobi joining Steelers sign Bears missed opportunity

June 22, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi was the first big free-agent fish of Ryan Poles' tenure as Bears general manager. Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus viewed Ogunjobi as the perfect three-technique for the Bears' new defense, a role worth three years and million.

But a failed physical negated the deal, and Poles' big fish wriggled off the hook and back out into the free-agent market.

The Bears shifted course to Plan B, signing Justin Jones to fill the spot earmarked for Ogunjobi.

For months Ogunjobi floated around the market, visiting teams as he searched for a new home. The Bears should have remained an option, willing to offer him a short-term, low-risk deal to soup up a defensive line that desperately needs some juice.

Ogunjobi found his new home Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That the Steelers, a well-respected franchise that rarely misses on free agents, were willing and eager to add Ogunjobi to fill the spot vacated by Stephon Tuitt shows the Bears missed an opportunity.

I understand Ogunjobi's medical red flag reportedly came from an offseason surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury to his foot and that such injuries are often hard to come back from and result in setbacks. That's why the Bears wouldn't commit .5 million to Ogunjobi. That's understandable.

But if the Bears are to pull themselves out of the NFL basement, they need to start mirroring the actions of smart organizations that rarely find themselves out of the playoff discussion. Teams like the Steelers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, etc.

The Steelers watched their defensive line get mauled last season. They saw the trouble Ogunjobi gave them as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals and thought the 28-year-old's talent, even at 80 percent, was worth a one-year gamble.

If they hit, they have a top-level interior defensive lineman who will help fix their run defense and put another legitimate pass-rush presence next to Cameron Hayward on the inside. Even if they only get 10 games out of Ogunjobi, that's worth it.

If it doesn't pan out, the Steelers wash their hands in the offseason and let him walk. No harm done.

Last season, Ogunjobi was a wrecking ball for the Bengals, recording eight sacks, 41 total pressures, and 31 stops.

Jones was a solid signing in the wake of Ogunjobi's failed physical. But the Bears' defensive line needs another premiere disruptor, especially with Robert Quinn's future up in the air.

The interior combination of Ogunjobi and Jones would have given Eberflus and the Bears' defense more teeth in the middle. As USA TODAY's Doug Farrar noted, the Bengals often stacked Ogunjobi and D.J. Reader to the center, making protection calls tougher for the opposing offensive line.

The Bears could have done the same with Jones and Ogunjobi, and the increased interior line presence would free Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow up to attack downhill from the second level.

Winning organizations stay on top by finding ways to take advantage of market value. They add winning players whenever available and figure out the rest later.

The Steelers have seen first-hand what Ogunjobi can do and saw no reason not to take a low-risk gamble on a guy with an incredibly high ceiling.

In an offseason filled with short-term deals, Poles and the Bears whiffed in not finding a way to make the Ogunjobi gamble themselves.

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