The Cincinnati Bengals and safety Reggie Nelson may be parting ways. The Pro Bowl safety has been on the wish list of a few NFL teams but has yet to be given a home. That situation could be coming to an end. With the end of free agency looming, Nelson is one of the better acquisitions still available. The Oakland Raiders are looking for secondary help.
Per SB Nation, if Nelson passes a physical, he could be wearing the Silver and Black this season. The rumors had been subtle about a possible signing. But, with Nelson in Oakland and talks of physicals, the whispers have become a mainstream conversation.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nelson has been in Oakland since Monday. Nelson was originally a first-round pick by Jacksonville in 2007 when current Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was coaching the Jaguars. In nine seasons with the Jaguars and Bengals, Nelson has 30 interceptions and 82 passes defensed.
Signing Nelson could be the move the Raiders need to fill the void left by retired Charles Woodson. At 32-years-old, Nelson is coming off one of his best seasons in the league. While analysts put the Raiders’ needs at the cornerback position, close watchers of the team realized the deficiency was at safety.
T.J. Carrie was moved to safety, while Nate Allen was placed on injured reserve. The Raiders brought in Taylor Mays, who recently re-signed with the Bengals, to provide some depth. Although Mays had flashes of spectacular play, the consistency was never there. Per Pro Football Focus, Mays posted a grade of 64.6.That mark is substantially lower than the 84.2 achieved by Nelson.
Nelson would prove to be a natural fit and a vast improvement over the departing Mays. Head coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals have a better knowledge of Mays’ strengths and weaknesses. But, that still doesn’t explain the willingness to let Nelson walk. Shawn Williams is the next man up. Keeping Nelson around could have been beneficial for the youngsters being indoctrinated into Paul Guenther’s schemes.
Lewis had indicated that the door wasn’t completely closed on Nelson. The sides were still apart on issues of money and contract length.
“In any situation both parties have to agree to agree. And we just haven’t agreed to agree with Reggie yet.”
Nelson’s age may have been the deciding factor. With George Iloka and Shawn Williams being much younger, the Bengals may be looking at the number of years Nelson has left. Nelson was one of the most dependable fixtures at safety for the Bengals. In five seasons as the starting free safety, he missed a mere three starts.
Although the consensus with fans was to bring Nelson back, his presence would also be a hindrance. With Williams set to hit the free agency market soon, the Bengals need to see what their young safety is capable of. Williams has the potential to shine at the position. His amazing interception of Ben Roethlisberger, during the Bengals 16-10 win in Pittsburgh, showcased his agility.
The Bengals may also have issues with Nelson being able to duplicate the Pro Bowl numbers he posted last season. Coming into 2015, there were concerns about his age and his ability to finish on tackles. There was also skepticism about his speed due to his age. He responded with one of the best years of his nine-year career.
The return of Kevin Coyle as defensive backs coach could have helped Nelson even more. He made it obvious that he wanted to return to the Bengals and contribute under Coyle. As of now, it looks like Nelson will be displaying his ball-hawking skills in Oakland. He’s got more left in the tank. But, it wasn’t enough to get another shot with the Bengals.
[Photo by David Richard/AP]