With the 2022 NFL Draft officially a thing of the past, the attention of all 32 franchises has swiftly focused back on the free-agent market ahead of training camp. A plethora of veterans who are capable of upgrading an NFL roster remain unsigned and searching for work. One of the more impressive defensive players available is defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
A former third-round selection of the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft, Ogujobi spent the most recent campaign as a member of the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals. Ogunjobi played a major role on the Bengals’ stingy defensive line, having made 16 starts.
Ogunjobi recorded 49 total tackles while accounting for career-highs in sacks (7.0), quarterback hits (16), and tackles for loss (12.0). Ogujobi had agreed in principle with the Chicago Bears on a three-year contract worth $40.5 million earlier this offseason, but a failed physical ultimately forced the deal to collapse. Ogunjobi sustained a season-ending foot injury against the Las Vegas Raiders in the wild-card round and underwent surgery in January.
With that ailment and unfortunate occurrence now seemingly behind him, Ogunjobi is once attracting interest in the open market. We’ve identified three fits that make sense on the surface.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets are reportedly interested in signing Ogunjobi after hosting him on a two-day free-agent visit earlier this week. Jets General Manager Joe Douglas continues to search for creative ways to improve his defensive line, and Ogunjobi would represent quite the upgrade.
The Jets struggled to apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks a year ago, having recorded just 33 sacks in 17 regular-season contests. Head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded leader that has placed a ton of emphasis on improving the Jets’ trench play this offseason. The Jets are excited about welcoming back Carl Lawson from a summertime season-ending torn Achilles injury, and Douglas executed a draft-day trade with the Tennessee Titans in order to move back up into the first round and draft former FSU EDGE rusher Jermaine Johnson II.
The Jets have done little outside of drafting Johnson to guarantee more success across their defensive line in 2022. They took a free-agent flier on Solomon Thomas but didn’t make any truly notable moves on the defensive line in free agency. Douglas also allowed unrestricted free agent Foley Fatukasi to sign a lucrative deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s room for improvement on New York’s defensive line, and Ogunjobi would quickly step into a starting role.
Texans General Manager Nick Caserio has refused to spend big dollars in free agency. Signing free-agent cornerback Steven Nelson to a two-year contract worth $9 million qualifies as the largest deal the Texans have given out in free agency thus far. Caserio has instead preferred to make shrewd under-the-radar signings such as Rasheem Green and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. While Ogunjobi’s on-field performance warrants a lucrative deal, his failed physical may force him to sign a lower-cost, one-year prove-it deal.
While both Green and Okoronkwo should help improve an underwhelming pass-rush that crawled to 32 sacks last season, the Texans can use more pass-rushing help straight up the middle of their defense. Ogunjobi is fully capable of filling that requirement.
New Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith is a defensive-minded coach that will prioritize improvement in 2022. Caserio and the Texans passed up on the opportunity to draft a premium pass rusher such as Kayvon Thibodeaux and opted to draft former LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Texans drafted just one defensive tackle by selecting Thomas Booker in the fifth round. Ogunjobi would immediately slot into Houston’s starting lineup while forming an underrated duo with budding superstar Jonathan Greenard.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs did not receive enough sack production from their defensive line last season. Kansas City’s uninspiring pass rush recorded just 31 quarterback takedowns in 17 regular-season games. Annual superstar Chris Jones led the Chiefs in sacks with 9.0, and Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach would be wise to pair Jones inside with an appropriate running mate such as Ogunjobi.
Veach attempted to address the situation by drafting former Purdue EDGE rusher George Karlaftis in the first round. Karlaftis carries some inside-outside versatility, but the Chiefs didn’t draft a single interior defensive lineman throughout the course of the 2022 NFL Draft—nor did they add any notable ones via free agency.
Playing in a loaded AFC West that features Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, and Derek Carr (with more weapons at his disposal) means the Chiefs better prepare to face consistent threats from opposing offenses throughout the upcoming campaign. Kansas City’s defense may be picked apart by their largest rivals should they fail to improve upon last year’s pass rush.
Veach re-signed Derrick Nnadi earlier this offseason, but Nnadi is more of a run stopper than pass rusher. The Chiefs also lost some depth up the middle when Jarran Reed signed in Green Bay. With roughly $10.8 million in cap space, via Spotrac, the Chiefs can afford to make a much-needed play for Ogunjobi.