After many calls for the Philadelphia Eagles to sign a certain free agent to address their gaping hole at starting cornerback across from Darius Slay, the team went out and did exactly that.
That’s right: the Eagles officially agreed to terms with Steven Nelson on Sunday afternoon. The one-year contract is reportedly worth “more than $4 million.”
We previously wrote about the possibility of the Eagles signing Nelson after the Pittsburgh Steelers released him all the way back in March:
Nelson’s cut wasn’t motivated by the Steelers thinking he’s a bad player. Pittsburgh had to let him go because they seemingly couldn’t agree on a contract extension that would lower his 2021 cap hit. The Steelers ultimately cleared $8.25 million by moving on from Nelson.
It is true that Nelson didn’t have his best season ever last year. According to Pro Football Reference, Nelson allowed seven touchdowns and a 97.0 passer rating in 2020. But Nelson allowed zero touchdowns and just a 65.8 passer rating in 2019. And a 72.6 passer rating in his final year with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.
Still, there’s reason to believe that Nelson still has good football ahead of him. He turned 28 in January and he’s been relatively durable, missing just two games over the last three seasons combined. Nelson brings plenty of experience with 68 starts in 82 games played.
There’s no guarantee that Nelson has interest in playing for the Eagles and it’s possible he’ll be priced out of the Philly’s range. He’s sure to draw some attention now that he’s on the open market. The Eagles should be among the teams gauging his cost.
Prior to the Eagles signing Nelson, it was very much unclear who was going to start at cornerback across from Slay. I mean, the team had 2020 undrafted rookie free agent signing Michael Jacquet III running with the first team defense back in OTAs. Avonte Maddox, Craig James, and Zech McPhearson were also thought to be in the mix.
Now we know that it’ll be Nelson and Slay starting at cornerback for the Eagles, with Maddox a strong contender for the nickel corner role. With Rodney McLeod (assuming he’s healthy) and Anthony Harris playing safety behind them, the Eagles suddenly have a solid-looking secondary. On paper, at least.
The Eagles signing Nelson hardly puts them in a position to be considered as Super Bowl favorites. But it does make the roster better in 2021 and there’s a chance they can re-sign him after this season to be a long-term starter. This is a good, sensible move by Howie Roseman.
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In a corresponding roster move to make room for Nelson, the Eagles released defensive tackle Willie Henry. The Eagles originally signed Henry back in late May. He was a camp body.