Steelers fork up big to keep Larry Ogunjobi around for the future

Steelers, Larry Ogunjobi
Steelers, Larry Ogunjobi / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to keep us on our heels early in free agency. So far, they have signed Patrick Peterson, retained Damontae Kazee, and signed offensive guard, Nate Herbig. Now Omar Khan is busy drawing up the paperwork to retain one of his own.

On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed that Larry Ogunjobi will be returning to the Steelers on a three-year contract. He will no doubt assume his role as a starter alongside Cameron Heyward in Pittsburgh's defense.

The veteran interior defender won't come cheap, however. Schefter reports that Ogunjobi will receive $28.75 million with $21.75 coming in the first two years of his deal.

This seems like an awful lot of money for a player who didn't exactly have an exceptional season during his first year in Pittsburgh in 2022. Though retaining Ogunjobi does fill a hole that otherwise would have been there at defensive tackle, fans have a right to wonder whether or not the team overpaid to keep him around.

Steelers overpaid for Larry Ogunjobi

I do love that Larry Ogunjobi has a ton of starting experience under his belt -- earning 79 starts in the 92 NFL games he has suited up for so far in his NFL career. However, it's hard to look at the sample we were given last year and justify that it's worth over $9.5 million per season.

Despite starting 16 games in 2022, Ogunjobi earned just 1.5 sacks to go with his 7 tackles for a loss, per ESPN stats. He failed to force a fumble last season or bat down a ball at the line of scrimmage. Obviously, there's far more to evaluating a player than looking at raw numbers, but this is a box that he clearly didn't check last year.

In addition to his severe lack of production on 384 pass-rush snaps (636 total snaps), Ogunjobi also earned a relatively poor overall grade of 61.7 last year from Pro Football Focus. This was good for just 63rd in the NFL among 127 qualifying interior defenders -- placing him in the middle of the pack.

Ogunjobi turns 29 years old this summer, and it's hard to imagine him becoming a completely different player than we have seen in the past. Personally, I would not have forked up this big of a contract for a mid-level starter like Ogunjobi, but the hope is that he can get better in his second season with the team.

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At the very least, signing Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year deal fills an otherwise massive hole on the interior defensive line. Let's hope he proves his worth and takes a step up on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023 and beyond.