Cincinnati Bengals: The Youth Movement Has Officially Arrived

The waiting game is over. Former Bengals safety Reggie Nelson has finally found a home with the Oakland Raiders. Nelson had a career year with the Bengals but found himself lingering in free agency. At 32-years-old, many consider Nelson to be on the back end of his playing days. But, as long as he can reproduce the intensity and passion of 2015, the Raiders will gladly keep him aboard.

Nelson inked a deal worth close to $12 million, per NFL Network. Of the free agents left on the market, Nelson was ranked No. 22. At one point in the negotiations, it was rumored Nelson wasn’t pleased with the way talks were progressing and was thought to have left the West Coast. At the end of the day, Nelson will be guarding airspace for the Silver and Black.

In 2010, Nelson arrived as part of a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals made an offer to Nelson but couldn’t match what the Raiders had put on the table. After bringing back safety George Iloka, there wasn’t much left to offer. The next man up is Shawn Williams. He’ll be expected to step in and show the franchise his worth.

Cincinnati Bengals Youth
[Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images]

Multiple league sources have confirmed that Nelson turned down a two-year deal. The age factor may have reared its head during negotiations with the Bengals. With Williams showing flashes of brilliance and Iloka having a steady presence, the Bengals may have opted to take the risk of Nelson walking. Now, the question is whether his numbers from last year were a fluke.

Nelson was able to make steady improvements over his years in Cincinnati. His hard work and dedication resulted in his first trip to the Pro Bowl. That focus helped Nelson snag eight interceptions — good enough for a first place tie. He recorded an interception in five straight games and finished the season with 77 tackles (52 solo), 14 passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries.

The Raiders have been laughed at for far too long. With the signing of Nelson, they’re showing that their desire to get better is no joke. Nelson will be a strong addition to an Oakland secondary that lost Charles Woodson to retirement.

For the Bengals, this will be their chance to see what the youngsters can do. There’s no doubt that Iloka will be the main man. He inked a deal that will pay him $30 million over the next five years. Williams will have to step his game up and be the stopper they feel he can be. Josh Shaw is listed as a cornerback but has the size and range to play like Woodson did for the Raiders. Having the ability to play safety is a benefit the Bengals will gladly take.

Cincinnati Bengals Youth
[Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]

Losing Nelson’s skills isn’t the only thing the Bengals may feel. His presence in the locker room will be greatly missed. Having him around as a mentor would have made a difference also. The youth movement has finally arrived.

Nelson had developed an uncanny ability to break on the ball at the right time. That skill made him lethal to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In his time with the Bengals, Nelson had 23 interceptions, five of those picks came against Big Ben and the Steelers. Of his league-leading eight from last season, three were against the rival Steelers.

The Bengals have shown that they are willing to put their confidence in Iloka and Williams. Now, the Cincinnati fans have to be confident in the decision made by Bengals brass. With off-season workouts swinging into gear April 19, fans will get a taste of the new mercenaries of the secondary. Nelson may be a distant memory by the time OTAs roll around.

[Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]

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