2022 Bears report card: Defensive tackle

The biggest-splash free-agent signing for the Bears came when general manager Ryan Poles signed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year contract worth up to $40 million.

The deal fell apart days later when Ogunjobi went to Halas Hall for his physical. There was apparently still concern surrounding Ogunjobi's foot injury. The Bears, instead, pivoted and landed a two-year, $12 million contract with defensive tackle Justin Jones.

This offseason, the Bears figure to invest heavily in the defensive line, including on the interior. Jones had a fine season and should be around for another year, but the Bears should be looking to bring in reinforcements at this spot.

Here's what went well and what didn't at the defensive tackle position in 2022.


As mentioned in our defensive end breakdown, it was hard to find positives for the Bears' defensive line in 2022. As a whole, the group was ineffective. That being said, Jones had the best season of any of the defensive tackles. He finished the year with 52 combined tackles, a team-leading 12 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 7 QB hits and 1 fumble recovery. It was the best season of his career and he stayed healthy and played all 17 games.

Jones also provided positive energy in the locker room. He was voted a team captain the week after the Bears traded away two team captains in Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith.

The fact that the Bears didn't sign Ogunjobi to that massive contract meant that the team's medical staff was diligent during the physical. Ogunjobi didn't sign a long-term deal with another team, instead settling for a one-year, $8 million contract with Pittsburgh.


Besides Jones, nobody else stepped up at the defensive tackle position. Armon Watts, whom the Bears claimed off waivers after the Vikings cut him in August, started 12 games, but totaled just 1 sack and 4 tackles for loss. Mike Pennel and Angelo Blackson had quiet seasons.

The Bears were 31st in the league against the run, allowing 157.3 rushing yards per game. The Bears haven't ranked that poorly against the run since 2013, when they were dead last in the NFL. They missed the presence of an anchor like Akiem Hicks on the defensive line. Their defensive tackles produced just 4 total sacks and forced only 1 fumble.

Defining moments

1. Poles didn't seem to have any interest in re-signing Hicks, the longtime Bears defensive tackle, last March. Hicks was unhappy in August 2021 when Poles' predecessor Ryan Pace wouldn't work out a contract extension with him. When Pace was fired and Poles took over, that all but signaled an end to the relationship. Hicks' contract expired and he signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent.

2. Missing out on Ogunjobi hurt, although nobody can blame the Bears for passing on a player whose medicals were a concern. Jones was good, but not great at the three-technique position. As a result, Poles is still trying to fix that position and will probably spend a good amount of time and energy looking for a solution this offseason.

Contract status

Jones is under contract for one more season with a $7.4 million cap hit. Pennel, Blackson and Watts are set to become unrestricted free agents. Tackle Jalyn Holmes saw limited action but is under contract for another year. Donovan Jeter signed a futures contract with the Bears.

Grade: F

They were bad against the run and had limited impact in pass rush. The defensive tackle position lacks difference makers.


Jones is the only contributor still under contract, so the Bears will need both another starter and several players for depth. This defensive line has to be completely rebuilt.

There are some options if Poles is willing to spend big in free agency, notably Eagles tackle Javon Hargrave and Commanders tackle Daron Payne. In the draft, Georgia tackle Jalen Carter could be a difference-maker at the top. There will be several other potential options later in the draft too, such as Baylor's Siaki Ika, Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton and Alabama's Byron Young.

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