The Cincinnati Bengals 53-man roster is set for now and the practice squad has one available spot left. While things appear settled, questions still swirl around like extra cheese on a Skyline three-way.
Some of the issues that will need resolution involve the defensive line. Did Cincinnati make the correct roster cuts? Did the organization make the right decisions during the draft concerning the position? Were there any mistakes made last offseason that were compounded this year? Does the team need to create more sacks?
Here are four significant questions for the defensive line this season.
Will they pay D.J. Reader?
A few Bengals defenders received extensions this offseason. Logan Wilson received a four-year extension. Then, Trey Hendrickson had a year added to the end of his contract. Germaine Pratt was first to the party in signing a new, three-year contract extension when he surprised some by inking a new deal. There is a lot of scuttlebutt around Joe Burrow’s and Tee Higgins’ contract situations.
However, defensive tackle DJ Reader is another player who deserves to be in that conversation. Despite not having a superstar on the roster, the Bengals have an incredibly talented defense. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo gets most of the credit. Nevertheless, Reader deserves his flowers as well.
Reader is entering the last year of his contract but there isn’t a hint of a new agreement being negotiated for the star defensive tackle.
Reader’s ability to take on double teams and prevent opposing offensive linemen from getting to Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson allowed the linebackers to make plays and get paid.
While Reader is not known for his pass-rush abilities, that does not mean he cannot pressure opposing quarterbacks. This is an area in which he has improved since entering the league. Pro Football Focus ranks Reader as the ninth-best interior defender in the NFL. Writing about Reader, PFF’s Gordon McGuinness notes:
"“Reader plays a vital role in Lou Anarumo's defense, highlighted by his 85.2 PFF grade in 2022. As a run defender, he has earned grades of 69.0 or better since 2017. He produced a career-high 84.1 PFF pass-rush grade in 2022, registering 32 pressures from 310 pass-rushing snaps.”"- Gordon McGuinness, Pro Football Focus
Reader’s presence in the middle of the defense is underrated and allows others to thrive while creating plays for himself. The question now is whether he will get an extension like some of the players around him. When will the drums start to beat for Reader to get an extension with the team?
Odds are, Cincinnati will not focus their attention until Burrow is signed and a decision is made on Higgins. There has been no word or mention of Reader's contract status from the team, which could mean this will be his final season in the Queen City.