Bengals showing interest in free-agent CB Steven Nelson

Justin Fried
Bengals, Steven Nelson Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Bengals, Steven Nelson Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Bengals overhauled their cornerback group in the offseason and will feature a new-look unit in 2021. But could one more addition be on the way in the form of Steven Nelson?

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Wednesday that the Bengals are one of 14 teams showing interest in the former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback.

While the cornerback position may not seem like a pressing need for Cincinnati after numerous offseason additions, it certainly doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence on a player like Nelson.

After all, he might be the best remaining free agent still on the market. Nelson is a high-end No. 2 cornerback who turned just 28-years-old earlier this year.

It’s an opportunity worth exploring.

The Bengals could further sure up their secondary by adding Steven Nelson

Nelson spent the first four seasons of his career in Kansas City where he developed into a quality starter with the Chiefs. A third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Nelson took over the starting job in his second NFL season.

He was a good player in Kansas City, but it wasn’t until he joined the Bengals’ division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers that his career took off.

Nelson broke out in 2019 finishing with an elite 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade that ranked sixth out of all cornerbacks in the NFL. He followed that up with a rock-solid 2020 where he received a 68.1 grade that ranked 36th at his position.

At worst, Nelson is an excellent No. 2 cornerback who’s still young enough to receive a multi-year contract, even at this stage of free agency. At best, he would immediately become the best cornerback on the Bengals’ roster.

Cincinnati saw former first-round pick William Jackson III depart in free agency and their 2021 cornerback group is set to look very different from the group they trotted out a year ago.

The team signed the likes of Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie in free agency and they’ll be joined by the returning Trae Waynes who missed all of last season.

The top three cornerbacks on the Bengals roster have never played a snap with the team.

There’s also Darius Phillips, who saw sizable playing time a year ago (and played well), and Eli Apple (another free-agent signing) to provide further depth to the unit.

There are likely more appealing landing spots for Nelson and it’s unlikely the Bengals pay top dollar for another free-agent cornerback.

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But they’re doing their due diligence. And it’s hard to argue that Nelson wouldn’t be an upgrade.

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