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Saturday Spotlight: Alec Ogletree

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we’ll spotlight a Bears player in a weekly column. This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at Linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Name: Alec Ogletree

Position: Linebacker

Number: 44

Age: 30

Time with Bears: 1st Season

The Past:

“They called my agent, he asked me where I was at. I was like, ‘I’m in Chicago.’ He was like, ‘well, don’t leave. They want to sign you.’”

Alec Ogletree and the Bears are a perfect match for returning to greatness.

Listed as a safety out of high school, Ogletree chose to attend the University of Georgia to play football. His twin brother Zander was part of the deal, the latter of whom played fullback for the Bulldogs. The former, Alec, was the 29th overall recuit in the class of 2010 as ranked by ESPN. A high school USA Today All-American, his future was bright as a defensive force.

Ogletree’s freshman season didn’t start great, though. He was suspended the first game of the season, but avoided a redshirt and found playing time on special teams and as a safety. He finished his freshman year with 34 total tackles, including 1 for a loss and a pass breakup.

His sophomore season, he was moved into a starting linebacker position. After a broken foot sidelined him for a month, he came back and forced a fumble against Florida in his first game back. Two weeks later against Auburn, he forced another fumble and recorded 6 total tackles. Later in Georgia’s matchup with the Kirk Cousins-led Michigan State Spartans in the Outback Bowl, Ogletree recorded a then-career high 13 total tackles, including 2.0 for a loss and a sack. Despite the Bulldogs losing the bowl game, Ogletree was earning his stripes as a former top-30 recruit. Ogletree finished his sophomore season with 52 total tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

University of Georgia vs University of Alabama, 2012 SEC Championship Game Set Number: X155843 TK1 R2 F302

Then to start his junior year, Ogletree was again suspended, this time for four games along with his twin brother. The star linebacker Ogletree served his time and returned for the Bulldogs SEC conference season, where he helped the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship, ultimately losing to the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Ogletree was electric that year, though, recording double-digit tackles in all but two games he played in, culminating in the Capital One Bowl game against Nebraska where he recorded 3.0 TFLs and 13 total tackles. He finished his last year in college with 111 total tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks. His highlight play came against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, where he returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.

Ogletree was headed to the pros, and the pros were quite ready for Ogletree.

“With the 30th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select: Alec Ogletree. Linebacker. Georgia.”

Ogletree’s size was praised out of college after converting from safety to linebacker, and his versatility provided options in multiple defensive schemes. He started all 16 games as a rookie, mostly at strongside linebacker for a weak defensive squad. As a rookie he led the team in tackles with 117 total, but the team went 7-9 and defensive coordinator Tim Walton walk following the season. Ogletree’s highlight from his rookie year was an interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown against the Houston Texans, tying an NFL record. Despite the team’s struggles, Ogletree was continuing his path of success from college to the pros.

His second year in the pros was filled with as much success, again leading the team in tackle with 111 and starting all 16 games for the 6-10 Rams. He found more action that season as a weakside linebacker and was still dangerous in coverage, picking off Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning in back-to-back weeks. He finished his second season adding 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions to his triple-digit tackle numbers.

The 2015 Rams season, their last in St. Louis, was another rough outing. They finished 7-9 and missed playoffs again, and head coach Jeff Fisher was lucky to survive the offseason. The third-year pro Ogletree had a promising start to the season, averaging 10.5 tackles per game across the first four contests, but a broken fibula ended his season prematurely, and Ogletree went into his fourth year with the Rams as they returned to palm trees and sunny beaches in Los Angeles, California for a team relocation.

Returning from his gruesome injury in 2016, Ogletree was voted a team captain by his peers on the Rams, and moved the middle linebacker for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was now in his third season with the Rams and Ogletree. The returned started didn’t disappoint, leading the team in tackles again with 136 total, including a 16 tackle performance against the San Francisco 49ers. After a season with 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 11 pass breakups, Ogletree was rewarded with second-team All-Pro honors. The former-first round pick was picked up for the 5th-year option on his rookie contract, and entered a contract year with the Rams.

With head coach Jeff Fisher relieved of duties following another sub-.500 season, the Rams hired 30-year old Sean McVay to coach the team, who brought Wade Phillips with him to coordinate the defense. The Rams were impressive on defense that year, finishing second in DVOA according to Football Outsiders and holding opponents to 20.6 points per game. Ogletree was a leader on that defense, so much so that he sat the final game of the season when they had secured a playoff spot. The Rams lost their Wild Card matchup that season, but Ogletree finished the year leading the Rams in tackles yet again with 95 total, and adding 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, and 10 passes defensed. This was the third time on his rookie deal he logged double-digit pass breakups.

In October of that year, Ogletree had signed a four year, $42 million contract extension. The Rams found more value for him in the trade market, and sent him to the Giants. Ogletree hit the ground running in New York, finishing a close second on the team in tackles with 93 total, despite playing in only 13 games due to nagging injuries. As a team captain, Ogletree intercepted Bears quarterback Chase Daniel twice, including one for a touchdown in an embarassing loss for the NFC North champions, and finished the year adding three additional picks, 1.0 sacks, and 8 pass breakups on the year.

Ogletree entered 2019 on a mission to become the best player for the New York Giants, after they traded Odell Beckham Jr to the Cleveland Browns. With all the attention around Eli Mannings pending retirement, Ogletree started in all 13 games he played in. The Giants were on a steep downhill slide, finishing 4-12 on the year with hardnly any notable players to mention. Ogletree finished with 80 total tackles, 1.0 sacks, 1 interception, and 6 pass breakups.

Unfortunately, Ogletree’s contract made him hard to keep on a roster looking to rebuild and find talent through the draft. He was released the following offseason, despite being a team captain the two seasons he was with the Giants. The neighboring New York Jets signed Ogletree for a brief stint in 2020, but after a second release he was once again released to free agency.

The Present:

The Bears saw a turnover in defensive depth following an uninspired 8-8 campaign in 2020, so they looked to free agency to fill roster holes. Where they had special teams mostly locked down, they needed linebacker depth, and signed Ogletree to a one-year deal. As a standup linebacker in the Bears potent 3-4 defensive attack, he found playing time right away with Danny Trevathan going out with an injury to begin the year. Ogletree capitalized on the opportunity, finding standout games such as the Bears first matchup with the Lions where he logged 12 total tackles, and the Buccaneers where he forced a fumble.

For a depth piece, Ogletree has been lighting it up for the Bears opposite Roquan Smith, the linebacker who (rightfully) gets the glory.

As Danny Trevathan has suffered yet another injured-reserve-worth injury to end his 2021 season, the veteran Ogletree will likely continue to start for the Bears at linebacker. He’s been a valuable asset to the Bears as they cotninue to chance greatness of old, and if they can compete for a playoff spot as we round out this 2021 NFL season, Ogletree will be a major piece in the puzzle for the Bears.

The future:

Ogletree is in Chicago on a one-year deal where his cap hit wouldn’t hurt the Bears if they needed to cut him, but his value is on the playing field where he’s been one of the only things between the Bears and a large gap right up the middle. The entire future of the Bears at inside linebacker is murky, with Roquan Smith about to enter a contract year and Danny Trevathan inured more often than not of late. Ogletree, now 30, has been more than a quality depth piece for the Bears this season. He’s been a starter at the position to hole up a linebacker crew which looks to be the Bears best unit on defense.

Now in his 30s without multiple Pro Bowls to bring to the table, Ogletree won’t find himself in discussions for long-term contracts this offseason. The Bears will likely ask his agent this offseason if he’ll come back on a similar one-year deal with low impact on the salary cap, and unless there’s a starting position open for another team, he would likely accept. Look for the Bears to try to bring him back again next year.

Week 13 prediction:

7 total tackles, 4 solo