Getting to the second contract is a pivotal moment for NFL players. The average playing career lasts less than four years, the same length of a standard rookie contract. That first multi-year veteran contract isn’t just an extraordinary step up in pay, it represents not only belonging at the highest level in the sport, but being at the top of it as well.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader arrived at that moment two years ago, when he signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the on-the-rise franchise. Reader’s former teammate, Larry Ogunjobi, is still searching for his.
It almost happened in the first day of free agency. Ogunjobi, not two months-removed from surgery on his foot, had reportedly agreed to terms with the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $40.5 million deal. The deal fell through when the Bears didn’t pass his physical upon arriving.
Over $25 million guaranteed revoked over the result of a single play.
Why did the Bears agree to a sizable deal with Ogunjobi without being sure that he was fully recovered from a surgery he had so recently at the time? We don’t know, but the outcome doesn’t sit well with Reader.
“It’s a very, very unfortunate situation,” said Reader to reporters on Tuesday. “It’s one of those situations you feel like your life is going to change, and boy does your life change. We pray together. We talk to each other. He knows I always have his back. I’m just praying for him. I’ve always had his back. I’ve watched him grow as a player. It’s very unfortunate the situation happened. When I saw it, it really pissed me off but I can’t comment on it.”
It’s been nearly two months since Ogunjobi re-entered the free agency market and he’s yet to sign with a new team, but that may chance soon. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Ogunjobi spent a couple days visiting with the New York Jets.
Former Bengals’ DT Larry Ogunjobi spent the past two days visiting with the New York Jets, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 10, 2022
Ogunjobi drawing interest from clubs should indicate he’s much closer to a full recovery than he was back in March. That might also be the main factor as to why the Bengals haven’t made a push to re-sign him. A reunion between the Bengals and Ogunjobi might not be in the cards if other teams like the Jets become interested.
As it stands now, the Bengals have a little over $17 million in salary cap space with their entire rookie class still unsigned. With the help of the top 51 rule, they should have enough space to bring Ogunjobi back if they desire. It’s just a matter if both sides want the same thing.
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