D.J. Reader

Lions DT D.J. Reader Likely To Miss Time During Training Camp

The Lions made a considerable addition to their defensive interior during free agency with the signing of D.J. Reader. The veteran defensive tackle is continuing to recover from his second career quad tear, though, and it could very well lead to missed time once training camp opens.

Reader is expected to be sidelined when camp begins later this month, as noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (subscription required). He adds, however, that the 30-year-old remains on track to recover in full by the start of the regular season. Having Reader available for Week 1 would be a key development for the Lions’ front seven.

The quad tear ended Reader’s fourth Bengals campaign, and it threatened his free agent stock ahead of this spring. The former fifth-rounder inked a two-year deal with Detroit worth up to $27.25MM. The pact only includes $7.4MM locked in at signing, though, and with a $4MM roster bonus due early in the 2025 league year Reader’s health and performance come the fall will be key deciding factors in his future.

During his time in Cincinnati, the Clemson product served as a full-time starter and exceled as a run defender. Reader also posted 20 quarterback hits and seven pass knockdowns, and he faces high expectations in Detroit. The Lions underwhelmed in a number of defensive categories last season, although they were second in the league against the run. The team’s defensive front will likely remain strong in that regard with Reader in the fold.

If he is not fully healthy once training camp opens, Reader will be a candidate for the active/PUP list. Player can be activated from that list at any time, and the progress he makes with respect to rehab will be worth watching closely during the summer.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Reader

Coleman Shelton started every Rams game at center last season, and the former UDFA logged a few starts there during the 2022 season. The Bears gave Shelton only a one-year, $3MM deal, however. Already rostering guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis, the Bears may view Shelton as a backup. This is because Chicago acquired Ryan Bates from Buffalo. Given a Bears RFA offer sheet in 2022, Bates remains attached to that contract (four years, $17MM). He looks more likely to be the favorite for Bears center duties than Shelton, ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin notes.

Bates, 27, does not have a notable history at center. At Penn State, he primarily played left tackle. The Bills used him primarily at guard, with Mitch Morse previously entrenched at center. Despite Buffalo matching the 2022 Chicago offer sheet, the team added two new guards — Connor McGovern, O’Cyrus Torrence — in 2023. Bates did not start a game for the Bills last season, but the ex-UDFA looks set to have a good shot at taking over at center for the Bears.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears’ four-year, $76MM Jaylon Johnson extension features an out in 2026. The deal calls for $10.6MM of Johnson’s $15.1MM 2026 base salary to be guaranteed for injury, but no skill guarantees are in place beyond 2025. KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes $7.6MM of Johnson’s 2026 base will shift to a full guarantee if the Pro Bowl cornerback is on the roster by that date. With no true guarantees on this deal post-2025, the Bears could get out with just $5MM in dead money (in the event of a post-June 1 cut) in 2026.
  • The Vikings have been active in using void years under GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. This practice cost the team when Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Tomlinson departed, but it is turning to cap space-saving measure heavily this year as well. Minnesota included four void years in Sam Darnold, Aaron Jones and Andrew Van Ginkel‘s deals, with three void years used to spread out the three-year, $22.5MM Blake Cashman contract’s cap hits. While this will create some dead money if these players are not re-signed before their contracts officially expire, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling observes it created some cap space in the event the Vikes need to carry a bigger 2024 cap number for Justin Jefferson, who has been on the extension radar for two years. That said, Jefferson’s 2024 cap figure is already at $19.7MM on the fifth-year option.
  • Looking elsewhere on the Vikings’ payroll, their Jonathan Greenard deal (four years, $76MM) features $42MM in total guarantees. The contract includes $4MM guaranteed for 2026, per Goessling. Though, that money is classified as injury guarantees, providing the Vikes — like the Bears with Johnson — some flexibility down the road on a $19MM-AAV contract.
  • Rounding up some Minnesota contract matters, Goessling adds Shaquill Griffin‘s one-year contract is worth $4.55MM and features $3.99MM fully guaranteed. The Vikings are giving Jonathan Bullard a one-year, $2.25MM deal to stay, per Goessling, who adds Dan Feeney‘s contract to come over from the Bears is worth $1.8MM. Jonah Williams, the defensive lineman, signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal that includes $350K guaranteed, Goessling offers. Jihad Ward‘s one-year accord is worth $1.8MM and includes $1MM guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets.
  • Initially labeled as being worth up to $27.25MM, D.J. Reader‘s Lions pact contains $22MM in base value. The Lions are only guaranteeing the veteran nose tackle $7.4MM at signing, per OverTheCap. Coming off his second quad tear in four years, Reader would receive a $4MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2025 league year. That date will certainly be pivotal for his Detroit future.
  • Arrested on a fourth-degree DWI charge in December, Vikings OC Wes Phillips pleaded guilty to a lesser charge recently. The third-year Minnesota OC pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge, Fox 9’s Jeff Wald notes. Phillips, 45, agreed to pay a $378 fine and will serve eight hours of community service.

Lions To Sign DT D.J. Reader

D.J. Reader has found his next opportunity. The veteran defensive tackle has agreed to a two-year deal with the Lions, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo. The pact is worth up to $27.25MM and includes more than $9MM in guaranteed money, per Rapoport.

[RELATED: Lions Extend Dan Campbell, Brad Holmes]

Reader met with the Lions on Tuesday, with Detroit looking to evaluate the progress of his recovery from a quad injury. That ailment ended his 2023 campaign, and it marked his second career torn quad, something which threated to limit his earning power on the open market. Another Bengals deal was on Cincinnati’s radar, but the 29-year-old will head to the Motor City instead.

After playing out his rookie contract with the Texans, Reader landed a four-year, $53MM deal to join the Bengals in 2020. He was an impactful starter over that time, being rated in the top 11 for defensive tackles by PFF in each of the past three seasons. The former fifth-rounder racked up 123 tackles and three sacks in 44 Bengals contests, proving to be a valued member of the 2021 team which reached the Super Bowl.

His absence will be acutely felt up front for Cincinnati (though Sheldon Rankins has been added as a replacement), but the Lions’ D-line will benefit greatly with Reader in the fold. Detroit already had Alim McNeill in place as a starter, but the team was in the market for another interior lineman to pair with him. Reader will fit the bill as part of a Lions front which also includes Aidan Hutchinson and, now, fellow edge rusher Marcus Davenport.

Improving up font was a goal for Detroit, a team which has also made a few notable moves in the secondary. After reaching the NFC title game, expectations will be high in Detroit given the core players which will be carried over in 2024. Reader is a high-profile addition to that group, and if healthy he will be a key contributor for the Lions over the course of his third NFL contract.

DT D.J. Reader To Meet With Lions

After missing the end of the 2023 season with a quad injury. D.J. Reader is starting to generate some interest in free agency. The veteran defensive tackle will be meeting with the Lions on Thursday, according to Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz.

Reader was completing a four-year, $53MM last season and appeared to be setting himself up nicely for his impending free agency. Through 14 games, the 29-year-old compiled 34 tackles and one sack while grading as Pro Football Focus’ 11th-best interior defender (among 130 qualifiers). However, a torn quad ended his season prematurely and put his free agency prospects in doubt.

The veteran tore his other quad in 2020, and while he managed to get into 15 games the following season, he was limited to only 10 contests in 2022. Injuries are now built into the defensive tackle’s profile, so Reader may be hard pressed to earn a long-term commitment.

Still, Reader would be a fit for a Lions squad that was reportedly in the market for help on the defensive line. Former third-round pick Alim McNeill has solidified himself as a starting nose tackle, but 36-year-old Tyson Alualu is currently penciled in next to him at defensive tackle. Reader would provide a high-upside option next to McNeill; even with the injuries, Reader hasn’t ranked lower than 12th on PFF’s positional rankings since 2019.

Thanks to that production, the Bengals are also hoping to retain the defensive lineman. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Bengals want to re-sign Reader, but the DT is expected to explore his options in free agency with a “few” suitors looming.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/18/23

Monday’s minor moves:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

With regular starter Corey Linsley absent since Week 3 of the season, Clapp has served as the Chargers’ starting center this year. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Clapp will spend the rest of the season on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury. With a next-man-up mentality, the team has called up Tom from the practice squad to fill his place.

With Cheeseman now out of Washington, the Commanders will have to work fast to find a replacement as they currently do not have a long snapper anywhere on the roster.

Bengals DT D.J. Reader Out For Season

The Bengals earned an improbable come-from-behind win on Saturday, but they suffered a number of injuries in the process. That includes the collision which knocked defensive tackle D.J. Reader out of the contest and which has put an end to his season.

Reader was carted off the field in the first quarter of today’s game against the Vikings, and he was quickly ruled out. An MRI revealed a quad injury, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. After the game, head coach Zac Taylor expressed concern over the length of time Reader could miss as a result of the injury. Rapoport and colleague Mike Garafolo have since reported the veteran suffered a torn quad tendon and is out for the year.

Reader, 29, has been a maintain on Cincinnati’s defensive front since his arrival in 2020. He inked a four-year, $53MM deal in free agency after his Texans rookie contract expired. A quadriceps injury ended his debut Bengals campaign after only five contests, but he has been a productive contributor and valued veteran presence when healthy. The news marks a blow to the Bengals’ defense, and it will no doubt hinder Reader’s market on a new Bengals pact or a free agent move this offseason.

The Clemson alum had posted 34 tackles, one sack and seven quarterback hits heading into Saturday’s game. Those figures helped contribute to a PFF grade above 80 for the third straight season and fourth time in his career. PFF rated Reader ninth amongst all interior D-lineman, and his absence will be acutely felt on a defense which has struggled in a number of categories this season. With Reader sidelined for much of the contest, Vikings running back Ty Chandler rushed for a career-high 132 yards and a touchdown.

In Reader’s absence, the Bengals will likely lean more heavily on 2022 third-rounder Zach Carter. The latter logged a 38% snap share as a rookie, and that figure has jumped to 42% this season. Cincinnati also has former Jaguars fourth-rounder Jay Tufele as a depth option at the DT spot, and he could be in line for an uptick in usage down the stretch.

Saturday’s win improved the Bengals’ record to 8-6, keeping them firmly in the race in the AFC’s crowded wild-card picture. Losing Reader will deal a signficant blow to the team’s prospects to close out the campaign, however, while also adding an unwanted development with respect to his future with the organization

Bengals Set To Face Challenge To Young Culture

The Bengals have established a pattern in recent years that show they prize youth and tend not to sign players to third contracts. After past days of paying staples like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and A.J. Green, Cincinnati has flipped gears, allowing such mainstays as C.J. Uzomah, Vonn Bell, and Giovani Bernard to walk in favor of younger players. Center Ted Karras is the only starter currently in his 30s, and backups safety Michael Thomas and quarterback Trevor Siemian are the only others on the roster older than him.

This newfound aversion to paying players into their 30s will be put to the test in the next two years, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. Next year will be a contract year for cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, wide receiver Tyler Boyd, and defensive tackle D.J. Reader, all currently wrapping up their second contracts. The following offseason will see the pending free agency of defensive end Trey Hendrickson, as well. If recent tradition holds true, none of the four would don striped helmets in 2025. These four present a great challenge to the Bengals’ young philosophy.

Perhaps projecting this exact philosophy, Cincinnati used three draft picks on these positions, selecting pass rusher Myles Murphy in the first round, cornerback DJ Turner II in the second round, and wide receiver Charlie Jones in the fourth round. Jones doesn’t quite have the size to be an eventual replacement for Boyd, but Murphy and Turner seem like clear attempts to bolster the future at those two positions.

You’ll notice Reader didn’t have a possible replacement drafted. Dehner asserts that of all the aging players, Reader stands the best chance of returning on a third contract. Ever since arriving from Houston, Reader has played at another level for the Bengals. He’s a captain and the spirit of the team’s defense. Dehner asserts that the benefits of milking every last ounce of football talent out of Reader outweigh the risks of taking on a portion of his eventual decline. The Bengals may need some convincing, though, as interior defensive linemen rarely display top play into their 30s. Reader turns 29 at the turn of this month.

Hendrickson likely holds the spot as the next most-likely candidate for a third contract. An underrated addition when he came over from New Orleans, Hendrickson has been nothing short of a star in Cincinnati. He followed up an impressive contract year as a Saint with two straight Pro Bowl seasons, including one with 14.0 sacks. Hendrickson turns 29 this December, meaning the Saints will have to consider whether to bring him back for any of his 30s next offseason. Truly talented pass rushers are hard to come by, so if Hendrickson performs to his usual potential, it should be an easy decision for the Bengals. Any injuries or setbacks in production, though, could put his future with the team in jeopardy.

Of course, this is all purely academic as of right now. The Bengals recent moves could all be coincidental, or they could be working on a case-by-case basis with none yet meeting the requirements necessary to reach a third contract. Regardless, Reader, Hendrickson, Boyd, and Awuzie are all headed towards that eventual consideration. Will they be the first to buck the team’s recent trends or will Cincinnati’s roster continue to be one of the youngest in the league?

Bengals Activate DT D.J. Reader

D.J. Reader is back. The Bengals have activated the defensive tackle from injured reserve, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic (on Twitter). Cincinnati also promoted wideout Trenton Irwin and punter Drue Chrisman from the practice squad.

Reader inked a four-year, $53MM deal to join the Bengals in 2020. He was limited to only five games during his first season in Cincy thanks to a quad injury, but he returned to start all 15 of his appearances in 2021. The defensive tackle finished the campaign with 43 tackles and a pair of sacks, and he added another 12 tackles and a sack in four playoff starts. Thanks to his regular season performance, Pro Football Focus ranked him ninth among 108 qualifying interior defenders.

The 28-year-old started each of the Bengals’ first three games this year, compiling 10 tackles. He suffered an MCL injury in September that shelved him for a few months, but he returned to practice earlier this week and is now in line to take the field tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

Chrismas is getting a chance to be Cincinnati’s punter despite Kevin Huber‘s presence on the roster. According to Dehner (on Twitter), Chrismas will have a chance to earn the full-time gig, and Huber has “been in the loop”on the team’s plan. Huber’s 2022 salary is guaranteed regardless of how things unfold. Huber has struggled this season, with his 43.2 yards per punt misrepresenting his lowest average since 2010. Chrismas, a 2021 UDFA out of Ohio State, has spent the majority of his career on the Bengals practice squad.

Irwin has earned promotions in each of the Bengals’ last two games following Ja’Marr Chase‘s injury. The 26-year-old wideout has gotten into 11 games in four seasons with the Bengals, collecting six receptions (including three this season).

Bengals Designate DT D.J. Reader, KR Brandon Wilson For Return

Coming out of their bye week, the Bengals opened the practice windows for two key contributors. Both D.J. Reader and Brandon Wilson returned to practice Monday, clearing a path to Week 11 returns.

A third-year Bengals defensive tackle starter, Reader has been down since late September due to an MCL injury. Having the veteran starter back would obviously bolster Cincinnati’s defense. Wilson could boost the defending AFC champions’ special teams. He has been on the team’s reserve/PUP list all season but is in the final stages of recovering from the ACL tear that ended his 2021 campaign. This might not be a lengthy ramp-up period, with Zac Taylor indicating (via The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr., on Twitter) optimism a Week 11 return could happen.

Given a four-year, $53MM deal to come over from Houston in 2020, Reader has started 23 Bengals games. The Bengals pivoted to a more aggressive free agency blueprint that year, which coincided with Joe Burrow‘s rookie contract hitting the team’s books, and Reader has been one of the centerpieces of this strategy adjustment. The plus run defender has not disappointed.

Although Reader suffered a quadriceps injury that knocked him out for 11 games in 2020, he returned to be a pivotal performer on the Bengals’ Super Bowl LVI-bound defense. When he suffered the knee malady this year, Pro Football Focus had him tops among interior D-linemen in run defense. Reader’s return alongside B.J. Hill would strengthen a Bengals defense that has been gashed by Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb during Reader’s absence.

Wilson missed the team’s Super Bowl climb, having gone down nine games into the 2021 season. The veteran return man will have missed over a year of action. Wilson, who notched kick-return touchdowns in 2019 and 2020, has been the Bengals’ primary kick returner over the past three seasons.

Reader and Wilson, both 28, have three weeks to be activated. No activation in that timeframe would lead to a season-ending IR stay. Cincinnati has five injury activations remaining. Reader and Wilson, both 28, represent prime candidates to count against the team’s eight-activation limit. Ja’Marr Chase is also likely to rejoin the team later this season, but the Bengals did not place their star wide receiver on IR, preferring to go week-to-week here.

Bengals Place DT D.J. Reader On IR

SEPTEMBER 29: As expected, the team moved Reader to IR. The veteran defensive tackle will be out at least four weeks. It would not surprise if the timetable is pushed beyond that, but the defending AFC champions are expected to have Reader back this season. Reader suffered an MCL injury that will feature an estimated six-week recovery timetable, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

SEPTEMBER 27: Tests have revealed D.J. Reader will miss an extended amount of time, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway. While this is not believed to be a season-ending knee injury, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo adds Reader is likely to be shut down for at least a month (Twitter link).

It would seem Reader will be IR-bound. This certainly stings for a Bengals team that had Reader and Larry Ogunjobi during its AFC North title run last season. Ogunjobi is now with the Steelers, leaving B.J. Hill — who re-signed with the Bengals this offseason — as the team’s top defensive tackle.

Although it is a bit early for gleaning too much from advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus has Reader ranked as the NFL’s top interior D-linemen through three games. Reader, 28, left the Bengals’ third contest after early, playing just 18 defensive snaps. But he has been one of the team’s top players since coming over from the Texans two years ago.

As the team began to be active in free agency to supplement Joe Burrow‘s rookie contract, the Bengals gave Reader a four-year, $53MM deal in 2020. The former Texans Day 3 pick has continued his strong play with the Bengals, who have benefited from his top-level run defense. Cincinnati ranked fifth against the run last season; the defending AFC champions are eighth through three games.

Longtime Bengal Josh Tupou, third-round rookie Zach Carter and Jay Tufele round out the team’s D-tackle group. Tupou, who has been with the team since 2017, agreed to a two-year, $3MM deal to stay in Cincinnati this offseason. The Bengals added Tufele, a 2021 fourth-rounder, via waiver claim from the Jaguars just after cutdown day.