The Cincinnati Bengals made a splash in free agency on the defensive side of the football and it involved a former Tiger defender. Former Clemson Tiger and Houston Texans defensive lineman D.J. Reader has agreed to a four year $53 million contract with the Bengals.
The Bengals wanted to address the defensive line this offseason and their acquisition of Reader qualifies as just that. Reader is a physical 1 technique defensive tackle who the team plans to plug in immediately alongside of Geno Atkins.
Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, Lou Anarumo, admitted at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine that the team wanted to give Atkins and the defensive line some help, and on Tuesday they did. Some are saying that pairing D.J. Reader with Geno Atkins will give the Bengals one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league. Cincinnati had the league’s worst record in 2019 (2-14) and many believe this will be a great way for second year head coach Zac Taylor to build up some confidence on his rebuilding of the team.
Reader (6-3, 347 pounds) was selected by the Texans in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft out of Clemson.
While Reader’s stats were not eye-popping in college, his imposing size and run stopping ability were enough to make him a fascinating topic of 2016 NFL Draft discussion. Completing an impressive 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, Reader fully showcased his remarkable strength for scouts and executives.
With a quiet, yet intimidating demeanor, and massive frame, one could not help but draw comparisons between Reader and future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Like Wilfork, Reader sported an uncanny athleticism for his size. Reader showed this also when he played baseball at Clemson in his sophomore year.
He made an immediate on the football field impact as a true freshman for the Tigers. He went on to become a respected leader at Clemson where he totaled 72 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and four sacks during his four years with the Tigers.
In Houston, Reader served mostly as a rotational defensive lineman as a rookie. He totaled 22 tackles and one sack that year. He then emerged as a full time starter in 2017, recording 47 tackles and one sack. Last season he had a career year with 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He’s a nose tackle who is tasked with clogging up the middle of the field, and has totaled 154 tackles and 6.5 sacks over the last four seasons.
The Bengals were not the only team interested in D.J. Reader though. The Denver Broncos were also interested in Reader but his $13.25 million per year average seemed to be too costly for the Broncos general manager John Elway.