D.J. Reader

AFC South Notes: Reader, Colts, Titans

The Texans lost D.J. Reader to an unlikely team, with the Bengals deviating from a long-conservative free agency philosophy to sign the breakout defensive lineman to a four-year, $53MM deal. Bill O’Brien confirmed (via the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, on Twitter) the Texans wanted to keep Reader. The seventh-year Texans HC/first-year Texans GM said team brass had “good conversations” with the interior defender’s camp about a new deal but acknowledged the team “couldn’t get that one done.” The Bills, Broncos and Titans were among the known Reader suitors before the Bengals swooped in. The Texans initially came in with a $6MM-per-year offer before the 2019 season, but Reader’s bet on himself translated into $13MM-plus-AAV deal. Houston has not made a move to replace Reader up front. The Texans have $35MM in cap space but are working on a Laremy Tunsil extension and obviously have a Deshaun Watson deal to consider.

Here is the latest out of the AFC South:

  • Justin Reid made a pitch to O’Brien to consider his brother as an addition at safety, Wilson notes. The Panthers recently released Eric Reid. In addition to the younger Reid brother, Houston employs Tashaun Gipson at safety and just signed Eric Murray to a deal that surprised many. The Texans are not likely to make another major addition at this position this offseason.
  • Coming off one of the worst kicking seasons in modern NFL history, the Titans are bringing back late-season addition Greg Joseph. But they will add competition soon, GM Jon Robinson confirmed (via Jim Wyatt of TennesseeTitans.com). Robinson said the team will look in both free agency and the draft for its second kicker. The Titans went a ghastly 8-for-18 on field goals last season. Joseph did not attempt a field goal in two regular-season games with Tennessee and only attempted one — a make — in the Titans’ three playoff games. The former Browns kicker made all 18 of his extra point tries, however, and was successful on 25 of 29 field goal tries during his 2018 season in Cleveland.
  • The ColtsT.J. Carrie addition did not seem to add up given Kenny Moore‘s place as one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks, but GM Chris Ballard said the team needed better depth at this position (via Stephen Holder of The Athletic, on Twitter). Carrie has played both inside and outside during his time with the Browns and Raiders and will likely be given time at both spots with the Colts. He’s done his best NFL work in the slot, however, so Indianapolis should be covered behind Moore this season. Moore missed five games due to injury in 2019.

Bengals “Officially” Sign D.J. Reader

The Bengals have officially signed D.J. Reader, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The two sides agreed to a deal weeks ago, but the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans.

The deal, at long last, is done after Reader agreed to additional language that has been popping up more and more as of late. In essence, Reader’s deal is done, though he still must pass a physical in order for the deal to take effect. If he doesn’t pass, the Bengals will have the option of cutting him immediately or keeping the contract as-is. It adds an extra layer of protection for the Bengals, of course, but also ensures that Reader will not be left in a holding pattern.

As previously reported, Reader’s four-deal is set to pay him $53MM with a favorable cash flow. He’ll get $22.25MM in Year 1 and $31.75MM over the first two years of the contract. It’s a big commitment, but the Bengals believe that it’s a worthwhile one – Reader is fantastic against the run and he’ll be downright scary when lined up next to Geno Atkins on the interior line.

I know we’re in a good spot with the mix of young and experienced players that know what they’re doing. You’ve got guys like Geno and Carlos Dunlap that have played a lot of ball,” Reader told the team website recently. “They’re great leaders and everybody in the back end. And we’ve got some new guys coming in now. It’s a revamped team, but a lot of their standard pieces are in place. It wasn’t like you needed that much to come. You’ve got young guys like (right end) Sam Hubbard, the receivers are good. Running back Joe Mixon is good; the offensive line is good and has a lot of guys that have been there. I knew the record didn’t reflect what the team had last year.”

The Broncos, Bills, and Titans were among the clubs looking at Reader last month. Ultimately, the Bengals came out on top to land one of the league’s best young 3-4 NTs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Sign D.J. Reader

The Bengals have reached agreement on a deal with Texans free agent defensive tackle D.J. Reader, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Reader is set to collect $53MM on his new four-year deal with Cincy.

The Broncos, Bills, and Titans were among the clubs connected to Reader in recent weeks. Just last night, we heard that Denver was in discussions with the Clemson product. The Texans, meanwhile, wanted to keep him, but the two sides were unable to come to terms on compensation. Reader was relatively unheralded coming out of college, slipping to the fifth-round in 2016. He’s certainly not unheralded anymore.

Reader was exceptional against the run last year. He’s also made strides as a pass rusher – he didn’t register a ton of sacks, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. He was often able to generate some pressure up the middle, and disrupt the pocket. Now, he’ll pair with Geno Atkins to form one of the most intimidating interior duos in the NFL. The Bengals will now have an imposing defensive front, but they still have some work to do at linebacker and in the secondary.

Cincinnati usually wasn’t a big spender in free agency during the Marvin Lewis era, but they’ve clearly changed their approach with new head coach Zac Taylor. They’ve particularly been going after guys on defense, as we heard they tried aggressively for linebackers Joe Schobert and Nick Kwatikoski before those two guys landed their huge deals.

The Bengals’ defense was atrocious last year, and obviously they’re willing to spend big to revamp it. They’re hoping Reader and an improved defense will make life easier for a rookie quarterback, presumably LSU’s Joe Burrow, in 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Targeting DL D.J. Reader

The Broncos are eyeing D.J. Reader, but it sounds like they’ll have some competition. Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos “continue to be in discussions” with the defensive lineman.

However, Klis cautions that Denver is probably “not the only team” pursuing Reader. Meanwhile, NFL.com’s James Palmer tweets that the Broncos are “still very interested” in the lineman.

The 25-year-old has spent the first four seasons of his career in Houston, and he’s started each of his 45 games over the past three years. That includes a 2019 campaign where he compiled a career-high 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The 2016 fifth-rounder has appeared in 61 regular season games during his career.

The Broncos have been relatively busy today. Most notably, they inked offensive lineman Graham Glasgow to a four-year, $44MM contract.

Bills, Titans To Pursue D.J. Reader?

After a strong contract year, D.J. Reader appears set to have a strong market. In addition to the Broncos being interested in the four-year Texans defensive lineman, the Bills and Titans are expected to be in on this pursuit as well, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes.

Reader is expected to command a deal that pays at least $11MM annually, per Wilson, who adds that the Texans initially offered the former third-round pick a $6MM-per-year deal. That offer, however, came during the 2019 offseason — before Reader’s quality season thrust him onto the radar for a big second contract.

Reader graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 overall interior defender last season, operating as one of the league’s top run stoppers. He will turn 26 in July. The Texans have made multiple offers to their breakout interior defender, but Wilson adds that Reader is not expected to return to Houston next season. That will create an interesting marketplace for teams in need of inside help.

Buffalo may lose Jordan Phillips in free agency but used a first-round pick on Ed Oliver last year and has promising 2018 third-rounder Harrison Phillips coming back from ACL surgery. While both Oliver and the younger Phillips are on rookie contracts, run-stuffing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is attached to a $10MM-AAV deal. The Bills, who will also likely be interested in edge rushers given Shaq Lawson‘s free agent status and Trent Murphy‘s underwhelming Buffalo run so far, are set to hold more than $82MM in cap space. That figure sits third in the league.

Tennessee used a first-rounder on Jeffery Simmons last year and has Jurrell Casey signed through 2022 on a $15MM-per-year pact. Reader would certainly make the Titans a well-invested team on the defensive front. They are also rumored to submit a big offer to Jadeveon Clowney. It is, however, difficult to project how the Titans will proceed. They hold just more than $50MM in cap space but have Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin as UFAs-to-be. The Titans’ Tom Brady interest only further clouds their picture.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Interested In DL D.J. Reader

The Broncos have Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris set for free agency. While both have expressed a desire to return, the prospect of the Broncos needing two replacement defensive ends certainly exists.

Denver has expressed interest in Houston defensive lineman D.J. Reader, according to 9News’ Mike Klis (on Twitter). Other teams will be in the running for the breakout interior defender, but the Broncos are monitoring the four-year Texans defender.

Reader broke through last season, registering 13 quarterback hits — more than his first three seasons combined — and ranking as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 interior defender. At 25, he is much younger than Wolfe (29) or Harris (28). Denver drafted Dre’Mont Jones in Round 3 last year and could use him as a starter, but if both Wolfe and Harris exit, the franchise will need help up front.

The Texans and Reader have discussed an extension, but nothing has emerged on the sides being close on a re-up that would keep the former fifth-round pick in Houston. Reader started 52 games for the Texans. Both Denver and Houston rank in the top 10 in 2020 cap space, with the Broncos holding north of $70MM (seventh) and the Texans at $61MM-plus (ninth).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans, D.J. Reader Not Close On Extension

Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader is far from a household name, but he looks poised to become a very rich man in the near future. The Clemson product, who was selected by the Texans in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, is finishing up the last year of his rookie contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.

In his platform year, Reader has continued to thrive as a run-stopper, and his ability to absorb blocks and open lanes for Houston’s linebackers is a key component of the team’s defense. He has also shown growth as a pass rusher, and even though he hasn’t posted a sack since Week 5, head coach Bill O’Brien recently acknowledged that Reader gives the defense some “juice” in the passing game.

As such, it makes sense that Houston would want to retain Reader’s services for the foreseeable future, but as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes, the two sides are “nowhere close” on a new deal. Such a contract may look similar to the five-year, $54MM ($27.5MM guaranteed) pact the Ravens gave to Brandon Williams in 2017, which looked like an overpay at the time but which now may be more in line with the current market. Like Williams, Reader is a natural 3-4 nose tackle who can play defensive end and whose primary job is to stop the run and eat blocks while making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable when he can.

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement before free agency opens, Wilson suggests that the franchise tag could be in play for Reader, who was named as a Pro Bowl alternate this year. The 2020 tag for DTs is projected to be roughly $15.5MM.

For what it’s worth, Reader would like to stay with the Texans. “Oh, you know I love it here,” Reader said. “I love the fans. I love the organization. They gave me my first real job. I love the city. People love me here. Hopefully, that opportunity comes around.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Texans Activate OL David Quessenberry

In one of the more inspiring stories of the NFL season, the Texans have promoted offensive tackle and cancer survivor David Quessenberry from their practice squad to their active roster. In a series of other moves, Houston also promoted safety Ibraheim Campbell and defensive tackle Jarrod Clements while placing center Nick Martin, tight end MyCole Pruitt, and defensive tackle D.J. Reader on injured reserve.David Quessenberry (Vertical)

Quessenberry, 27, spent more than three years on the Texans’ non-football injury list after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2014. After an amazing battle that was recently well-documented by Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com, Quessenberry completed his treatment earlier this year. He’s spent the entirety of the 2017 campaign on Houston’s practice squad.

Although he has yet to appear in an NFL game, Quessenberry could potentially see action for the Texans during the final two games of the regular season. Houston currently has just two offensive tackles on its roster, and neither Kendall Lamm nor Breno Giacomini has been impressive. Theoretically, the Texans could give Quessenberry — a 2013 sixth-round pick out of San Jose State — a two-game audition to close the year.

Martin, meanwhile, will close his second NFL campaign after suffering a “serious” ankle injury, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. A second-round pick in 2016, Martin also missed his entire rookie season after breaking his ankle. This year, Martin played nearly 1,000 offensive snaps in the middle of the Texans’ line but graded as a bottom-10 center, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Draft Signings: Chiefs, Texans, Jaguars

The Chiefs have signed second-round pick Chris Jones, a source tells PFT (Twitter link). The defensive lineman out of Mississippi State becomes KC’s first rookie to sign. Jones’ stock rose in the weeks leading up to the draft as more and more teams zeroed in on interior pass rushers.

Here are the rest of today’s draft signings from the AFC:

  • The Texans signed fifth-round nose tackle D.J. Reader, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter).
  • The Jaguars sign sixth-round quarterback Brandon Allen, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets.
  • The Jaguars signed sixth-round linebacker/defensive end Tyrone Holmes, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • Linebacker Jatavis Brown inked his rookie contract with the Chargers, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. The Akron product was taken in the fifth-round.
  • The Jets signed seventh-round punter Lachlan Edwards, according to his agency on Twitter.
  • The Patriots signed sixth-round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill to a $2.44MM deal, including a $100K signing bonus, as his slot dictates, Wilson tweets.
  • The Steelers announced the signing of seventh round draft picks Demarcus Ayers and Tyler Matakevich. Ayers, a wide receiver/returner from the University of Houston, and Matakevich, a linebacker from Temple, are now the first two Pittsburgh rookies to sign from this year’s class.
  • The Ravens signed fifth-round defensive end Matt Judon, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Texans signed fifth-round safety K.J. Dillon, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets.