Cincinnati Bengals Safety Reggie Nelson Set to Hit Free Agency

Matt GrayContributor IMarch 12, 2012

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18:  The hair of safety Reggie Nelson #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals obscures his jersey number as he looks on from the sidelines against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Bengals 24-22.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Late on Sunday afternoon, Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Bengals were expected to talk with Reggie Nelson about a deal on Monday, before the beginning of free agency on Tuesday.

However, it seems that talks did not result in a deal as his agent has confirmed that Nelson will hit the free-agent market at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to explore all options whilst continuing talks with the Bengals. 

With Nelson becoming one of the more reliable facets of a banged up and rickety secondary in 2011, the Bengals are in real need of his services this coming year.

With the widely criticised departure of Johnathan Joseph still fresh in the memory of Marvin Lewis, there is sure to be a greater push to retain Nelson than Cincy attempted last year with the former.

ProFootballTalk have confirmed that the Bengals have the league's highest amount of cap space with a sum of $49.9 million to play with in free agency and beyond. However, if history is anything to go by, Mike Brown will not be parting with the vast majority of it.

The impending situation with Nelson could lead the Bengals to address the safety position via the draft where they might be able to pick up Alabama's Mark Barron early, or perhaps look at Markelle Martin or George Iloka among others.

Besides Chris Crocker who remains under contract through 2012, the Bengals are far from elite at the safety position.

In 2011, Taylor Mays failed to do enough to be promoted from special teams whilst struggling with nagging injuries, while rookie Robert Sands remained raw and inconsistent, failing to see any field time. Jeromy Miles was impressive on special teams and there is hope his success will transfer across. Gibril Wilson has also struggled with injuries in his time as a Bengal and will be a free agent on Tuesday.

After neglecting to place their franchise tag on Reggie Nelson, it seems that the Bengals are ready to move forward with Taylor Mays and Robert Sands despite their failures to impress in 2011.

It may be more about not wanting to pay Nelson's price tag than it is about having faith in Sands, Miles and Mays, and it will be interesting to see how the pair react to being given the opportunity to step up this offseason. Marvin Lewis has seemed content to move forward with what he has:

"We would like to have (Nelson) back, but we’ll see. We’re prepared to go either way," Lewis said. "We covered that spot last season and didn’t have to dip into the reserve tank at any point where we were fortunate. We had a taste of Taylor Mays and we were impressed with what we saw, Jeromy Miles got a chance of having a little bit of a role and we feel pretty good about where we are."

Brown's failure to re-sign Joseph last year contributed to a backlash that saw the Bengals set record low attendance figures in 2011. If he wants to continue to make strides in the right direction as he did with the Palmer-to-Oakland trade, Reggie Nelson's return might be next on the list.