Justin Jones

Bears DT Justin Jones agrees to free agent deal with Cardinals, per report

A new roster hole has opened up for Bears GM Ryan Poles

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The Bears will need to find another three-technique defensive tackle this offseason. Justin Jones will leave Chicago for the Arizona Cardinals, according to Peter Schrager.

Jones joined the Bears in 2022 after Larry Ogunjobi– who was initially pegged for the job– failed a physical. Even though he was the Bears’ second choice, he was a solid player in the middle of the line. Jones didn’t disrupt the backfield as much as the Bears probably would have liked, but he didn’t get much help for a good chunk of his time in Chicago.

The Bears preach having their pass rushers attack the quarterback “four as one,” meaning all four players have to do their job at a high level for the unit to succeed. But in 2022, the Bears got next to no production from other defensive linemen like Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Dominique Robinson and Angelso Blackson. Jones’ play noticeably– and unsurprisingly– improved once the team traded for Montez Sweat. In the 25 games Jones played for the Bears before Sweat arrived, he had four sacks, 18 TFL and 14 QB hits. In the nine games after the trade he had 3.5 sacks, four TFL and 10 QB hits.

With Jones on the move, the Bears now only have three defensive tackles on the active roster under contract for the upcoming season: Gervon Dexter, Andrew Billings and Zacch Pickens. Of that group Dexter is the only man who could really be considered to take over as a starter. The 2023 second-round pick gradually improved throughout the year and saw an uptick in play over the second half of the season. Fellow rookie Pickens didn’t play as much as Dexter, and split his time between three-tech and nose tackle. Billings primarily plays nose tackle, and a move for him to three-tech feels unlikely.

Even if the Bears deem Dexter ready to take on more playing time at tackle, the Bears figure to add another player at the position. Ideally, the team would like to have two waves of linemen so that they can keep their players fresh while keeping up the pressure on the opposing QB.

Whether the Bears add that extra DT in the draft or in free agency remains to be seen.

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