According to the NFL’s September 20 waiver wire, the Packers brought veteran linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe in for a tryout.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Western Kentucky for the Bears in 2014 (115th overall), Iyiegbuniwe played in 58 games over his four years in the Windy City, with his role primarily on special teams. He played at least 75% of the team’s special teams snaps in each of his four seasons, becoming one of the better playmakers for the Bears in that department.
He finished with 29 total tackles (25 solo, one for loss) and a forced fumble in that span (stats via Pro Football Reference).
Iyiegbuniwe Never Cracked Starting Lineup While With Bears
The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Iyiegbuniwe was solid as both a pass rusher and in coverage at Western Kentucky, where he amassed 22.5 tackles-for-loss, four forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks and four passes defensed in 44 games.
Iyiegbuniwe started out playing special teams as a rookie in 2018, but after Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis signed with other teams in 2020, he had a chance to snag a reserve role behind starters Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, but that never happened.
The Bears chose to part ways with him at the end of the 2021 season, which he addressed in a February 2022 Instagram post, also expressing frustration with the lack of opportunities he received in Chicago.
“For those asking why I never amounted to a starter for the Bears or beyond I myself can’t answer that,” Iyiegbuniwe wrote. “Over the years I worked overtime to prove that I deserved the opportunity. Waited my turn and starred in the role I was given. In four years, not once did I get a chance to show off my talent/hard work. As much as that pissed me off I realized something. ‘Gods timing not yours.’”
Iyiegbuniwe Spent Much of 2022 in Seattle
Iyiegbuniwe, who turns 27 in October of 2022, landed with the Seattle Seahawks in March, and he hoped to carve out a role there due to his connection to Seahawks’ current associate head coach/defensive assistant Sean Desai, who served as Chicago’s defensive coordinator in 2021.
“I want to be great,” Iyiegbuniwe told the Seahawks’ official website in March. “I think my football IQ (is a strength)—learning defenses, understanding it, teaching it. Then my athletic ability, I think I can do a lot of things well—cover, blitz, run game. I’m excited to show that off. I made a name on special teams, and that’s part of the reason I’m here, but obviously I have big goals for myself individually, and I know what it’s going to take to get there. Just getting my foot in the door is a big thing.”
“Honestly, the fit was the biggest thing for me,” Iyiegbuniwe added. “Where I’m at in my career, where the team is at, and the need for my position, everything just kind of lined up. Sean Desai called, and we made it happen. He was huge for me. He looked out for me and said good things about me, and that’s why Pete (Carroll) and everybody took a chance on me.”
Unfortunately, Iyiegbuniwe was part of Seattle’s final roster cuts, and has yet to catch on anywhere else. We’ll see if he did enough to impress in Green Bay.