The concept of free agency in the NFL is a brutal business and no team knows that more than the Cincinnati Bengals. After signing superstar quarterback Joe Burrow to a monster five year extension worth $275 million at the beginning of the season, the clock has officially starting ticking on the Super Bowl window in Cincinnati. After every season from now on, retaining players will become just a little bit more difficult and putting a competitive roster on the field will be a little bit harder.
Bengals Defensive Tackle Expected to Walk in 2024 Free Agency
One of the biggest cap casualties this offseason for Cincinnati will be start defensive tackle D.J. Reader. While Cincinnati’s defense has suffered a major regression this offseason, Reader has been one of the few consistent players over the past several years. While the team has struggled to make tackles, little of that is to blame on the excellent nose tackle on the Cincinnati offense.
In fact, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo recently spoke out about how much he would love to keep his star defensive lineman in town for the foreseeable future.
“I’d love to have DJ back, love everything about him,” Anarumo said. “He’s such a big influence in the locker room. He’s such a big influence on our defense and has done so many great things for the city, the community and our team would really like to get him back if we can.”
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the “if we can” is the biggest part of that phrase as Reader is coming off of a contract for four years and $53 million dollars with Cincinnati that averaged him $13 million per season. With what contracts are looking like in the current market, I would expect reader to want between $15 to $20 million dollars per year to stay in Cincinnati. Given the fact that he is a thirty year old nose tackle coming off of a season ending injury to his lower body, the risk is just far too high for Cincinnati to give him that contract.
As much as I have enjoyed watching Reader play at a high level in Cincinnati, the team will need to look for a cheaper defensive tackle to make the numbers work. One option would be disgraced Titans defensive star Teair Tart who was recently released by the team and signed a one year contract with the Texans. Tart is a 26 year old tackle who has performed well with Tennessee but his short term attitude issues could drive his price down to a suitable value for Cincinnati.
Another suitable strategy for the Cincinnati would be to draft a replacement in the upcoming NFL Draft. Given the above average take home in the recent NFL Drafts, Cincinnati’s only big needs will be right tackle and defensive tackle this offseason. Defensive Tackle Leonard Taylor out of the University of Miami might be a good pick.
Taylor has demonstrated excellent ability and his only major weakness as a player is pad level. Pad level is a common issue in defensive tackles coming out of college as college players are used to being able to bully players with their pure strength rather than focus on technique. His lower body should improve with time with Cincinnati and he could develop into an excellent option on the defensive front.
D.J. Reader has been an excellent player in Cincinnati but the salary cap can only afford so much after the team dropped a record breaking contract on Burrow.
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