This is the time of year that brings smiles to the faces of NFL franchise owners. The free agency period is like walking into a candy store and seeing all the goodies they’ve ever wanted. But the licking of chops isn’t always so productive. Some players are faced with sitting in limbo, while teams play hardball with them and their agents. Reggie Nelson hasn’t been signed. The Cincinnati Bengals seem to be snubbing the league’s interceptions leader.
There are teams with mild interest in Nelson. The rumor mill has linked him to the Vikings, Giants and Buccaneers. During free agency, teams and owners are either upfront or secretive about their moves. Nelson may have deals in the works, but the details aren’t publicized. With that being said, the Bengals have been mum on how they’re handling Nelson and any contract agreements.
Why the apparent games? Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has said there’s the potential for a signing, but there are still things to be worked out and agreed upon.
“In any situation both parties have to agree to agree,” Lewis offered to ESPN. “[A]nd we just haven’t agreed to agree with Reggie yet.”
Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Nelson has yet to find an NFL home. The fact that the Bengals haven’t signed him – after fueling his success – is even stranger.
Nelson led the NFL in interceptions with eight snags. He was one of the Bengals’ team leaders in tackles. His 77 tackles were good enough for second place on the Bengals’ defense. In Weeks 9-13, Nelson had at least one interception. That feat tied him with cornerback Ken Riley, who set the consecutive games record in 1975.
The talented safety has achieved a boatload of other accomplishments. The lack of interest in Nelson could make things interesting, as the free agency period comes to a close. As of now, the Bengals may be using that as a ploy to keep the upper hand.
Though the consensus is that Nelson is getting up there in the years, he has a lot left in the tank. Per Pro Football Focus, Nelson is ranked No. 5 of the remaining free agent prospects. That buzz should have more teams flocking to get him signed to a contract. Nevertheless, he still hasn’t been picked up by any visionary defensive coordinator.
The Bengals aren’t known for big and flashy moves during the free agent signing period. But, playing the cat-and-mouse game with an athlete like Nelson could come back to burn them. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a divisional foe that could use the talents of Nelson. He’s renowned for being a threat to Ben Roethlisberger. Acquiring his skills would eliminate him as a foe and give them leverage against Cincinnati.
The most recent team to show interest in Nelson is reportedly the Tennessee Titans. With defensive guru Dick LeBeau leading the X’s, Nelson could find himself in the middle of another outstanding season. As of this writing, there hasn’t been a visit scheduled.
Nelson has stated that he would like to return to Cincinnati, but he may have alienated Bengals brass by turning down a rumored two-year contract. Having Josh Shaw and Shawn Williams as capable replacements could also be hampering the re-signing process. The Bengals have invested time into the youngsters and are looking to see what they can do.
Throughout free agency, the Bengals have always keyed on re-signing their current players. But, suddenly the waters have gone cold on Nelson. Seemingly, the Pro Bowl safety is ready to return to the Bengals. He’s made it obvious on more than a few occasions. The return of defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle is a plus for the Bengals and Nelson. He respects his coaching techniques and hunger to win.
“I love playing for KC.”
Kevin Coyle would probably love having Nelson back with the Bengals.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]