Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was supposed to be the Chicago Bears’ answer at three-technique in Head Coach Matt Eberflus’ system in 2022. The three-year, $40.5 million contract he signed was proof of that. Then came his failed physical and the painful decision by General Manager Ryan Poles to cancel the deal.
“After a standard and thorough physical and medical review with Larry yesterday afternoon, our medical team deemed him to have failed his physical and therefore, unfortunately, we are not signing him today,” Poles said in a statement in March. “This is difficult, and it is emotional for everyone involved, but ultimately is what is in the best interest of protecting the Chicago Bears.”
Poles quickly pivoted to his Plan B and signed former Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Justin Jones to a two-year, $12 million deal. Jones’ contract is one of the richest the Bears have paid in free agency this year, but it won’t deter Chicago from drafting a player at his position if they believe an upgrade is available.
One of those three-tech upgrades that might be hanging around when the Bears are on the clock in the second round is Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey. TDN’s JB Butler dubbed Chicago as Winfrey’s perfect fit.
“As Matt Eberflus looks to transition the roster from a base 3-4 under Matt Nagy to Eberflus’ 4-3, Winfrey would be a welcome addition of youth and talent to a room that looks disheartening for Bears fans after the trade of outside linebacker Khalil Mack and loss of defensive tackle Akiem Hicks,” Butler wrote. “Winfrey’s ability to rush the passer from the defense’s interior will help Chicago return to the dominant defense that the franchise is used to.”
Winfrey was one of the stars at the 2022 Senior Bowl. He routinely won his one-on-one reps and was hard to miss; he practiced and performed at a higher level than most of his defensive teammates. It was clear early on that his stock would rise after such a strong showing, and there’s a chance (a good one, in my opinion) that he’ll be a first-round pick.
Winfrey appeared in 20 games over two seasons with the Sooners and finished his career at Oklahoma with 40 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. At 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, and with 35 ¼” arms, he’s tailored for the three-tech role. I’d argue he’d be the most talented option the Bears have fielded in that role since the days of Tommie Harris, another Sooners standout.
The prevailing assumption is that the Bears will spend their first two picks, No. 39 and 48, on offensive players. A wide receiver and offensive lineman sit atop that offensive wish list. But if there’s a strong desire to upgrade the defensive line, Winfrey would make a lot of sense. It’ll be a hard sell to the fanbase considering Jones’ presence on the roster, but if Poles has made anything clear this offseason, it’s that he’s going to do whatever’s in the best interest of long-term sustained success.
This year’s draft is deep at wide receiver. It’s much deeper at wide receiver than interior defensive linemen, so prioritizing a player like Winfrey in the second round and targeting a pass-catcher in the third round is fine. It won’t earn the Bears any style points, but who cares? Playoff teams are built from the inside out, and Winfrey is one of the best ‘inside’ prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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