Cincinnati Bengals: New defensive linemen have something to prove

Team signed Mike Daniels on Wednesday after it added D.J. Reader during the offseason

Credit: Elaine Thompson

Credit: Elaine Thompson

The Cincinnati Bengals turned heads when they signed nose tackle D.J. Reader to a big contract during free agency this offseason, but the defensive line got even better this week.

Cincinnati announced the signing of former Packers Pro Bowler Mike Daniels on Wednesday, as he comes in on a reported one-year, $2.7 million contract.

Daniels was listed on the NFL Top 100 list from 2016 to 2018 with the Packers but is coming off an injury-plagued 2019 campaign with the Lions when he played just nine games because of foot and arm ailments.

The Bengals were looking to add depth at the interior positions was a concern after Josh Tupou opted out for the season and after Ryan Glasgow was waived following a failed physical, and now they have what Daniels said might be the best defensive line unit he’s been a part of, especially while joining up with eight-time Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins.

“I played with some talent, but this is definitely up there,” Daniels said. “To play with a guy like Geno (Atkins) and a tough nose tackle like D.J. (Reader) and our edge guys. Our guys are really good. I’ve watched Carlos (Dunlap) for a bunch of years. I remember him at Florida. (Sam) Hubbard is really good and (Carl) Lawson is an animated guy like me so that automatically makes him awesome. And I remember him sacking our quarterback three times a few years ago at Lambeau (Field). So, I like this d-line a lot, I really do.”

Daniels was waived by the Packers last August and signed a one-year, $9.1 million contract with the Lions. He wasn’t sure what 2020 would have in store for him when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, preventing him from visiting teams during the offseason, but he continued working out in preparation for that call that finally came with the Bengals. Daniels said he feels better than he did in 2017, which he said was his best year overall.

The 31-year-old former Iowa Hawkeye couldn’t remember if Cincinnati was one of the 12 teams inquiring about him last year before he signed with Detroit but he does remember getting a text from Atkins.

“He said, ‘Man, there’s room over here if you want to come,’ so a little bit of foreshadowing there but I definitely do remember that text so I’m really excited for finally being here,” Daniels said.

Daniels has been studying film on Atkins since 2012 when former Iowa guard Marshall Yanda advised him to do so as he was preparing for his rookie season with the Packers. He got to know Atkins over the years, as well, and a chance to play next to him was something that weighed into Daniels’ decision to come to Cincinnati.

He's been in town for about a week but needed only a couple conversations with coach Taylor to know this was where he wanted to be.

“It feels like more than (a fresh start) -- just the amount of love that I’ve been given by the coaches,” Daniels said. “Geno (Atkins) actually reached out to me and said, ‘I really look forward to us potentially playing next to each other.’ So, I really, really, had some good meetings with coach (Nick) Eason over Zoom, learning, looking through everything. I was just really looking forward to this opportunity. I feel refreshed, I feel so happy, I’m just so thankful, almost overwhelmed really for this opportunity. It’s a new conference, a bunch of different teams. I’m just looking forward to it.”

Reader shares the same excitement about the Bengals defensive line. He didn’t know Daniels before he arrived but had watched a lot of film of him and was aware of his past success.

“He’s just always been a hard-nosed guy working getting after the passer and he plays the run pretty well -- another great addition to the team,” Reader said in a Zoom conference Wednesday morning. “He plays hard. He gets up the field. He does a good job of making a dent in that line, which is important when you are trying to stop the run. He does a good job of just being active in the pass rush. He has a lot of moves, a lot of tools.”

Daniels said he has something to prove after his injuries last year, and Reader does too after the Bengals signed him to a four-year, $53 million contract. The 26-year-old is someone the Bengals are hoping to build around for the future as Atkins likely will be rotated out more often, creating need for another leader inside.

Reader is hoping to play a big role in Cincinnati, especially knowing his pass rush ability could improve playing next to guys like Atkins.

“Whatever they need me to do, I can do it,” Reader said. “I got paid a lot to come here, so I just want to prove what I can do and that’s what I plan on doing. Whatever role it is, I just want to thrive at it.”

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