The Cincinnati Bengals came into this offseason with a plethora of their own players hitting the open market. Many were vital contributors to the surprise season last year—chief among them was safety Reggie Nelson.
Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer confirms that the Bengals have reached an agreement with Nelson. The terms of the deal are unknown at this point.
The Bengals claimed that re-signing their own was the priority in free agency this year, but when players like Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene were given more money and more playing time by other teams, they left Cincinnati in a hurry.
Nelson was considered the top priority by Cincinnati this offseason, but the front office wasn’t particularly aggressive in bringing him back. In fact, they sounded more than confident in the young players behind Nelson, making him expendable.
Cincinnati’s gamble paid off. Nelson’s market never really developed—only the New York Jets showed a genuine interest. Nelson visited the Jets on Friday and was prepared to make a decision between New York and Cincinnati before the end of the weekend.
Bengals fans will liken the Nelson situation to a similar scenario that played out this time last year when cornerback Jonathan Joseph bolted for the Houston Texans.
Nelson experienced his best year as a pro last season under the direction of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He compiled 85 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions. Since joining the Bengals via trade in September of 2010, Nelson has done nothing but improve his all-around game, and he appears to be entering the prime of his career at age 28.
For an offseason that has widely been considered the most important in over a decade, the Bengals finally have made a move that will improve the team. Nelson is a vital part of a top-ranked defense from a year ago, and he could only get better with more experience.
The Bengals stated their philosophy going into free agency, and they are sticking to it. Nelson is an important piece the front office wanted to bring back, and they got it done.