3 free agents Texans can sign to replace D.J. Reader

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The Houston Texans could be back in the market for a starting-caliber nose tackle.

The Houston Texans could resort to find a defensive lineman in free agency after letting D.J. Reader sign with the Cincinnati Bengals to a four-year deal worth up $53 million that will make him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league. Reader’s departure will leave a sizeable hole in the Texans defense that prided themselves in stopping the run in recent years.

Since Reader became the full-time starter in 2017, the Texans ranked 13th, 3rd, and 25th overall in the league in stopping the run. The Texans run defense ranked highly in the league until last season when the defense dealt with J.J. Watt’s torn pectoral muscle and the absence of Jadeveon Clowney as an edge rusher after his trade to the Seattle Seahawks before the start of the season.

However, Reader was still a key component in the Texans’ regular-season success and one of the bright spots in their struggling defense. His performance as a starter through three seasons led him to be handsomely compensated by the Bengals and voted in as an alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl.

Reader is leaving Houston with 154 tackles, 24 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks in his four-year stint with the Texans. His production and durability will be missed as he only missed three games in Houston.

Texans re-signed backup nose tackle Brandon Dunn to a three-year contract before free agency started with the possibility looming of Reader leaving to another team.

However, the Texans do have a few options that they can add to strengthen their front seven.

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