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Free Agent Profile: Defensive lineman D.J. Reader

If the young Texans lineman hits the market, Denver should be first in line.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I found it. Everyone has a guy at some point they pound the table for their team to pursue and sign in free agency. Last year, for me, that was Kareem Jackson. I loved not only his play I saw on tape, but also his potential fit in Vic Fangio’s scheme.

Player Profile

Height: 6’3”
Weight: 347 lbs
Age: 25 years old
Experience: 4 seasons

This year, my guy is D.J. Reader, for the same reasons. I honestly didn’t know a ton about him prior to this offseason and hadn’t watched him much, and then I popped on the tape. I immediately fell in love and saw a guy who I believe could explode in Vic Fangio’s system here in Denver.

What kind of contract could he get

This one is interesting because Reader is kind of an under the radar player and isn’t a classic pass rushing interior defensive lineman like a Grady Jarrett, who recently signed a lucrative contract with the Falcons.

However, Reader had his best year of his career in 2019 with 50 tackles, and 30 total pressures, and is only 25 years old.

Jarrett’s contract has him at an $11M and $12M cap number these last two years, and 30+ year old DTs Gerald McCoy and Mike Daniels received one-year deals for $8M. So perhaps that’s somewhat of the range with the floor being even lower than that, potentially.

Why the Broncos should attempt to sign him

Scheme fit as well as roster fit. Depending on what happens with Wolfe and Harris, Denver will be in need of a starting defensive end to hold down the one side of the line with Dre’Mont Jones growing into the other. Denver will need both beef in run support, as well as some juice in the pass rush.

Reader fills both of these needs perfectly as the role he played in Houston was not just a nose tackle, but moved up and down the line, often playing 3, 4i, & 5-tech in base packages, and 1 & 2i-tech in sub packages.

Which brings us to scheme fit. How the Texans used Reader is very much like how Fangio used Akiem Hicks in Chicago. In Chicago, they had Eddie Goldman as the primary nose tackle, with Hicks playing DE in base and nose tackle in sub packages.

This plays to Reader’s strengths as he isn’t a Chris Jones in the pass rush game, but is powerful and quick for his size and is able to anchor the line in run defense from sub packages if a team tries to spread you out and run it against your nickel defense.

Offensive and defensive line guru, Brandon Thorn has been a huge fan of Reader since 2017, and has a ton of great content highlighting his play. Here is a piece he wrote a few years ago on Reader.

With him on the team, Fangio would have a very big chess piece on the defensive line who has the size of a nose tackle, but can play all up and down the line, and is excellent in pursuit.

Why the Broncos shouldn’t attempt to sign him

The big question in free agency is always price, as it can get inflated. However, this could be a good year for Denver to go after Reader as there are several other big name defensive lineman that may occupy the majority of the attention, so this could be a bit of an under the radar signing.

Oh, sorry, this is supposed to be the negative section. That’s all I got.

Final word

Seriously, go watch this guy, and tell me he’s not a perfect fit in Denver.