Just like that, the Chicago Bears have yet another major hole to fill on their roster.
Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus aggressively targeted the three-technique defensive tackle position at the onset of free agency. But that aggressiveness didn’t pay off, as Larry Ogunjobi did not pass his physical, and the three-year $40.5 million contract he agreed to went into the trash.
Poles pivoted to Justin Jones, but it’s hard to see the team relying on someone who has mostly been a part-time player at a key position. While he has been solid when he has played, Jones has missed at least three games each of the last three seasons and was out for six games last year. The exact details of the contract have not yet been released, the two-year $12 million deal he reportedly agreed to indicate a rotational player.
From the time the Bears agreed to terms with Ogunjobi to the time he failed his physical, the defensive tackle market dried up. (Jones was on his way to signing with another team before the Bears swooped in.) What we know, though, is that the team sees the position as a priority and the draft could provide them a long-term answer.
The top realistic option on the team’s draft board might be Devonte Wyatt, who matches the prototype for the position. The Bears have a shot at Wyatt because he didn’t dominate in college like some thought he should. That was partly due to scheme and partly due to a loaded defense at Georgie.
Wyatt’s biggest weakness as far as scouts may be concerned is his length. His arms measured less than 33 inches, which might limit him to being an interior rusher. Teams that play base 3-4 alignments mostly prefer more length on the outside, as we saw with the Bears for the last several years.
Still, the Bears would need some luck for Wyatt to drop. He clocked a 4.77-second 40-yard dash, while weighing in at 304 pounds. His fits may be limited, but they do exist, and tackles with his combination of size and explosiveness are rare.
The Bears could have plenty of other options in the second round.
Travis Jones is interesting. While the Connecticut prospect is larger than most three-techs at 6’4”, 325 pounds, he put on a show at the Combine, including a 4.92 40-yard dash time — the fourth best. If Eberflus doesn’t see him as a three-technique, he could see him as a new version of Grover Stewart, who has been a productive nose tackle for the Colts.
The Bears keep trying to turn the clock back, so seeing Eberflus draft an Oklahoma defensive tackle with his first pick, could remind some of Lovie Smith drafting Tommie Harris. Perrion Winfrey isn’t the caliber of prospect Harris was, but at 6’4”, 290 pounds with 35.25-inch arms, the Maywood, Ill. prospect is interesting. He won’t turn 22 until training camp and is coming off a season in which he had 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Dane Brugler had Winfrey slotted for the 48th pick in his most recent mock draft, though it was the Chargers who owned that selection at the time.
Another option could be DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M. While he moved up and down the line in college, some believe Leal’s best position will be as an interior rusher in the NFL. He is smaller than the other options (283 pounds) but had 8.5 sacks and 12.5 TFLs last year and won’t turn 22 until July.
We’ll see how the rest of free agency plays out, but right now it’s clear that the Bears did not fill the three-technique position the way they had planned, and nobody should be surprised if they look to fix that in the draft.