Lions signing of DJ Reader getting high marks far and wide

The Detroit Lions made a smart-looking signing of defensive tackle DJ Reader, and it's getting noticed.
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With his recovery from a torn quad tendon that shortened his 2023 campaign with the Cincinnati Bengals in mind, the Detroit Lions had defensive tackle DJ Reader in for a visit as the first week of free agency started to wind down a bit. They liked what they saw, heard from him, etc. as they did not let him leave the building without a contract.

A two-year, $27.25 million deal, with $9 million full guaranteed and a viable path to cut bait one year in if Reader doesn't perform as expected, is very favorable for the Lions. But Reader is a top-notch run defender (75.0 or better run defense grade from Pro Football Focus in three of the last five seasons, 70.8 in one of the others), and he provides some pass rush juice from the inside too.

Of course the question with Reader is health, but he has already said he's doing well in his recovery and the Lions were obviously fine with what they found out about his rehab.

Lions' signing of DJ Reader gets high marks from all over

The nod could very quickly shift to this week's signing of guard Kevin Zeitler. But even with mention of Zeitler, Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network tabbed Reader as the Lions' best free agent signing.

"Detroit has made a bevy of sharp moves this offseason. Signing veteran Kevin Zeitler to replace Jonah Jackson made too much sense, while CB Carlton Davis offers the high-end CB play the Lions have been searching for."

"But adding DT DJ Reader to the middle of an already talented defensive line was Detroit’s masterpiece. He’s coming off a torn quad tendon, but Reader is a true difference-maker at nose tackle who will allow Lions DC Aaron Glenn to deploy more defenders in coverage."

Naming his favorite and least favorite free agent signing for each team, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus named Reader for the Lions, with an A- grade for "Fit/Need" and an A+ "Value" grade.

"The interior of Detroit's defensive line now features Reader and Alim McNeill, two players who ranked in the top 10 in run-defense grade at the position. Detroit’s defensive line has taken a huge step forward, and they have been aggressively improving their defense this offseason."

Walter Football gave the Lions' signing of Reader an A- grade. Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News gave it an A. Bleacher Report only gave it a B, citing the health risk since Reader has missed 10 games over the last two seasons.

The Lions signed Reader to an incredibly low-risk deal that will reward him in the second year if he's healthy and performs well this year. Filling a need and not spending excessively to do it are the marks of a good free agent move, and that's why the assessments of the Reader signing are where they are.

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