Broncos could replace Shelby Harris with D.J. Reader

D.J. Reader celebrates a big play. Credit: Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports.
D.J. Reader celebrates a big play. Credit: Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports.

The Denver Broncos have a lot of work to do, and we’re starting to see where they will land on their own free agents.

At linebacker, Todd Davis will be retained while Corey Nelson won’t be. On the defensive line, Adam Gotsis will be allowed to test free agency while the Broncos will look to bring back outside linebacker Jeremiah Attoachu in the second wave of signings.

As for their big-name free agents on the line, it’s not looking good for bringing them back to the Mile High City. Shelby Harris is as good as gone; he’s one of the best interior linemen in the NFL and he hired Drew Rosenhaus as an agent. As for Derek Wolfe, the veteran is working with the team to see where all parties stand, but for now, he may be gone as well.

That means the Broncos will have to reload on the interior of their defensive line, and according to Mike Klis, they’re interested in signing former Houston Texans tackle D.J. Reader.

Reader is a massive man, coming in at 6’3″ and 347 pounds. He’s much bigger than Harris’ 290 pounds and he fits Vic Fangio’s defense a little better. Reader is without a doubt a run-stuffer, who should allow his defensive ends and outside linebackers to get after the quarterback when need-be.

And that is certainly an interesting aspect of his game; Reader, despite his massive size, can get after the QB himself. He’s racked up 6.5 sacks over the four-year course of his career, with 2.5 being a career-high last season.

Diving deeper into the stats, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fifth-best interior linemen in the NFL last year, much higher than Harris (20th). Reader’s overall grade was superb, at an 86.7, while his run defense graded out at 83.3, also fifth-best. And his pass-rushing is very good, too, grading out at 75.4, which was 15th-best in the NFL among interior linemen.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. First and foremost, the Broncos aren’t the only ones interested in Reader’s services as the Indianapolis Colts could be as well. And, according to Spotrac, Reader’s “market value” is $11.9 million per season. That’s a huge number for a defensive tackle, and it’s also very close to the market value Spotrac assigns Harris ($12.3 M).

Things aren’t always as simple as price tag — because it’s likely many teams will be bidding for Harris’ play — but for only $0.4 million more per year, wouldn’t the Broncos be smarter to just keep Harris?

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