Jets’ Free-Agent Target Visits With AFC Competitor: Report

Larry Ogunjobi

Getty Free agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is visiting with another potential NFL suitor.

Just before the start of the New York Jets 2022 minicamp, head coach Robert Saleh told reporters that general manager Joe Douglas was still “working on” a veteran free-agent addition like offensive tackle Riley Reiff, linebacker Kwon Alexander, or defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.

Up to this point, the Jets had faced little competition in the pursuit of these three players but today on June 21, that changed. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported: “Former Bengals’ DT Larry Ogunjobi, who had seven sacks last season, is visiting today with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source.”

Schefter added that Ogunjobi had “recently visited with the New York Jets,” which most probably know by now.

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Are the Jets Still ‘In’ on Ogunjobi?

Ogunjobi is a very talented defensive lineman but the holdup with his market appears to be based on a failed Chicago Bears physical that may have been the result of an offseason surgery on his foot. The Jets did not go into detail on his visit or how things went, but it’s possible that the defending AFC champ is still looking for a long-term deal.

Douglas is famously stingy on the price tag that he’s willing to spend on a player and if Ogunjobi’s amount matched the Jets’, we wouldn’t be speculating on this situation in June.

Now the question is whether the Steelers offer something more appealing, and if the Jets are still in communication with Ogunjobi on a potential counter.

The 28-year-old could be the missing piece for this Jets defense in 2022. They still have a weak spot at defensive tackle next to Quinnen Williams and Ogunjobi would bring five years of experience — which includes a Super Bowl appearance last season.

With New York, Ogunjobi would likely start and could spell the end of either Sheldon Rankins or Nathan Shepherd. He’s a backfield disruptor at heart (21.5 career sacks, 41 tackles for a loss) but his run defense grades (via Pro Football Focus) were admirable with Cleveland.

During his rookie campaign, Ogunjobi earned an impressive 83.8 mark as a run defender but the problem is that it has gone steadily downhill since then. From 2018 through 2021, his run defense scores in order of year were the following: 67.3, 60.2, 53.8, 34.7 (with Cincinnati).

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Is Ogunjobi the Right Fit?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ogunjobi would replace Rankins in the mind of the Jets coaching staff — meaning they do not plan to start versatile DL John Franklin-Myers at defensive tackle on first downs.

Is a pairing of Ogunjobi and Williams better than Rankins and Williams?

Most Jets fans would probably argue yes after watching Rankins in 2021 and I wouldn’t blame you for that, but the analytics tell a different story. Both veterans are better known for their ability as pass rushers than run-stuffers.

Ogunjobi was more productive in that regard — 41 quarterback pressures and seven sacks compared to Rankins’ 24 pressures and three sacks — but the NYJ D-tackle was more efficient with an 11.1 pass-rush win rate compared to Ogunjobi’s 10.0 win rate.

Basically, the ex-Bengal produced more because he played more, which makes sense considering how much Saleh rotates on D-line.

The analytics on run defense were also on par. Once again, Ogunjobi had more defensive “stops” with 20, while Rankins (12 stops) had the lower missed tackle percentage on rushing plays (16.7% compared to 18.4%).

These differences are not staggering by any means but that’s kind of the point. Most Jets fans were not impressed with Rankins in year one and Ogunjobi’s most recent campaign was almost identical. Would this truly be an upgrade at defensive tackle or is it just more of the same?

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