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Bears D-Line Problems Looming

Larry Ogunjobi is out and about in free agency again and it's not the Bears he has been speaking with after his earlier failed physical.

It could be an alarming free agency development for the Bears.

If it isn't, then they've probably misjudged their defensive line strength.

Free agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi has been visiting with the New York Jets the last two days according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Such a visit could mean New York is seriously considering signing him. Bears GM Ryan Poles had said twice in the past he could not rule out pursuing Ogunjobi again before he signs, but it would appear they have serious competition for this former Bengals three technique.

That is, if the Bears are even a team Ogujobi would want to consider signing with again. 

In March when free agency began, the Bears tried signing Ogunjobi and he failed a physical, so the three-year, $40.5 million deal they had agreed to had to be voided.Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury in the playoffs and apparently hadn't healed enough to pass the physical in March.

His former Cincinnati teammate and friend D.J. Reader met with Bengals media on Tuesday in a press conference and briefly discussed the situation.  

It didn't sound positive for the Bears.

"Me and Larry talk to each other all of the time, we're actually doing a gala back home in June but you know it's a very, very unfortunate situation," Reader said about the voided signing. "It's one of those situations where you think your life is going to change, and boy, does your life change, just now."

Reader called it a tough part of the business.

"He knows I always have his back, and I'm just praying for him," Reader said. "That's one of my good friends. I've watched him grow as a player. And it was very unfortunate that situation happened. It's just, you know, when I saw it that really pissed me off but you can't really comment on it."

Reader said Ogunjobi remains positive about a desirable outcome to his situation.

"He's doing well, he's always in high spirits," Reader said. "He's not somebody that you can break with something like that. He's always in high spirits. Me and him are always talking back and forth."

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The best way to sum up what happened with the failed Bears signing?

"Business is cutthroat and everybody doesn't do it the same way," Reader said. "Everybody doesn't go about handling business the same way. You've go to take that into perspective at all times.

"Unfortunately that's the way you learn it. Because like I said, that's life-changing money and for that to be just snatched away, it's rough."

Whether Reader is talking about the Bears or possibly another entity or team intervening to help void the deal isn't clear, but what is obvious is Ogunjobi is exploring the market again and the team he is talking with isn't the Bears.

If the Bears do not make a play to bring back Ogunjobi or can't because a bridge has been burned, they could be in trouble. 

The team has a questionable group of defensive tackles, at best.

Justin Jones was signed immediately after their failure to sign Ogunjobi but it was for  only two years and $12 million. Jones hasn't been the disruptive three technique Ogunjobi has been, as he has only 4 1/2 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in his four-year career.

Ogunjobi last year alone had  a career-high seven sacks with 12 tackles for loss. He has 21 1/2 career sacks and 41 tackles for loss in five seasons. 

Other than Jones, the Bears really have no other three technique. They used Mario Edwards Jr. as a three technique while they had a 3-4 base defense with a four-man front in passing situations. Whether he could actually handle playing that spot on running downs remains to be seen.

Jones is 6-foot-3, 309 pounds and a bit heavier than some of the more effective three techs like Aaron Donald or Ndamukong Suh. But he has played it extensively.

The only other Bears who play defensive tackle besides Jones and the 277-pound Edwards are Angelo Blackson, Auzoyah Alufohai,  LaCale London, Khyiris Tonga and Micah Dew-Treadway. Not all of the can play the gap-shooting three technique spot.

Alufohai is 6-4 and 320, Blackson 6-4 and 315 and Tonga is 6-4 and 338. All three are nose tackles or 3-4 defensive ends. Blackson's career has been spent in 3-4 defenses. Tonga was a seventh-round pick last year and seemed an ideal fit for the nose in a 3-4 but not so much for a 4-3. London is a practice squad player. Dew-Treadway is  more a three technique but was an undrafted free agent they picked up after this year's draft.

So the ability for the Bears to stop the run and also manage an interior pass rush pressure is greatly in question, and if they're not bringing Ogunjobi in with a later offer then they could be facing a difficult situation on the defensive line. 

 Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven