Lions' potential free agent steal naturally highlighted by Bleacher Report

There's always some risk in signing a player coming off a significant injury, but the Lions' potential steal signing of DJ Reader has been highlighted again.
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Sometimes, the value equation in signing or drafting players has injury risk baked into it. It's risk the Detroit Lions generally aren't scared of, but they aren't reckless about it. If a player fits what they are looking for, they'll bring him in.

If DJ Reader hadn't had his 2023 season with the Cincinnati Bengals ended early by a torn tendon in his right quad, he would have been signed during the first wave of free agency in March. But he came in for a visit, and the Lions did not let him leave town without a deal.

It was a two-year, $22 million deal for Reader, with just $7.5 million guaranteed and a viable path for the team to part ways one year in. He had a torn quad tendon in his left leg in 2020, and a knee injury cost him noticeable time in 2022.

The Lions' signing of Reader instantly got good marks, along the lines of little or no-risk and potential nice reward as he pairs with Alim McNeill on the inside of the Detroit defensive line.

Bleacher Report highlights Lions' signing of DJ Reader

Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report recently honed in on six NFL free agent contracts that will provide the biggest value in 2024. The Lions signing of Reader, with mention of how the defensive tackle market exploded this offseason, of course made the list.

"To be fair, the 29-year-old veteran is recovering from a season-ending torn quadriceps tendon. Still, he can be a wrecking ball in the middle of a defense when healthy. Yet his average annual salary ranks 22nd among defensive tackles. His salary-cap hit this season is even more team-friendly since it ranks 31st overall."

"A healthy Reader can change the entire complexion of the Lions defense. The 335-pound nose tackle is a load to move at the point of attack and can collapse the pocket on passing downs."

"His presence in the middle should create a ripple effect by taking more attention away from other defensive linemen and keeping the squad's linebackers clean. With the improvements the Lions also made on the back end, Detroit has the personnel to be a top-10 defense this coming fall."

Reader had the ninth-best run defense grade among defensive tackles from Pro Football Focus last year (75.3), with a top-15 pass rush grade as well (79.1). He has posted at least a 70 run defense grade from PFF is six of his eight seasons, and over the last three years PFF has credited him with 98 quarterback pressures. The Lions are hoping he maintains that kind of all-around impact this year, and if healthy there's a good chance he does.