Eagles fans wanted Steven Nelson... they got him!

Eagles fans wanted Steven Nelson... they got him!

Eagles

Eagles fans wanted Steven Nelson... they got him!

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A skilled veteran cornerback to start opposite Darius Slay… but affordable at a $4 million, 1-year contract?  Yes, Steven Nelson checks both boxes, for now anyways. The alternative was to grow the position from within, but it’s always risky to throw a young inexperienced corner into the NFL fires. Maybe that was Plan B? I guess we’ll never know for sure…

As Mike Kaye reported for NJ.com, the Eagles have added some much-needed proven talent to their cornerback depth chart ahead of training camp.  The team announced the signing of former Steelers and Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson on Sunday. According to ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler, the deal is worth more than $4 million.

In a corresponding move, the Eagles released defensive tackle Willie Henry to make room for Nelson.

Nelson was cut by the Steelers in a cost-cutting move in March. The 28-year-old defensive back was a full-time starting outside cornerback in Pittsburgh for the past two seasons.

Nelson will automatically become the favorite to start opposite former Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay this season. Nelson is the only proven outside cornerback, besides Slay, on the roster. Avonte Maddox, who played on the outside last season, is expected to move back to his natural nickel position this year. The Eagles also have Craig James, Michael Jacquet and fourth-round rookie Zech McPhearson to push Nelson this summer.

Kaye had three overarching impressions from the signing:

The Eagles realized the secondary needed help— “The Eagles were set to host an underwhelming competition opposite Slay this summer. While James, Jacquet and McPhearson have unexplored upside, counting on them to reach their ceilings would have been a fool’s errand.  Nelson can come in and compete, and give the Eagles insurance in case McPhearson isn’t ready to start right away. McPhearson is probably who the Eagles want on the outside in the near future, but Nelson provides a bridge to help ease him into action.”

The Eagles need to open up cap space— “With Nelson now signed to the roster, the Eagles could use some wiggle room under the cap. The Eagles were projected to have around $4.87 million in cap space before the move, according to the NFLPA. With Nelson signing a short-term deal, they are likely up against the threshold or at least close to it.

“Tight end Zach Ertz’s situation still needs to be figured out. Cutting or trading Ertz would save the Eagles roughly $8.5 million on the salary cap. Ertz has made it clear that he’d like a change of scenery, but the Eagles have said they won’t give Ertz away in a trade or release.”

What other needs do the Eagles have?— “The Eagles have depth at most of the positions on their roster, but they are lacking proven entities behind several starters at the moment.  The offensive and defensive lines are strong, but the Eagles could use some experience at wide receiver and linebacker. The Eagles also could use some competition for new punter Arryn Siposs.”

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound corner produced 48 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions last season. Nelson allowed 43 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns last year.

With Nelson on board, the Eagles add a player who has been durable and consistent since becoming a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 out of Oregon State.

Following his four seasons with the Chiefs, Nelson joined the Steelers as a marquee free agent signing prior to the 2019 campaign, and he started all 30 games he played, with three interceptions, 17 passes defensed, and 109 total tackles. The Eagles had an up-close-and-not-very-pleasant look at Nelson in 2020 as he intercepted two Carson Wentz passes in Pittsburgh’s 38-29 win on October 11 at Heinz Field. It was Nelson’s first multi-interception game of his career.

Dave Spadaro at PE.com: “With Nelson on board, the Eagles add a player who has been durable and consistent since becoming a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 out of Oregon State.”

Following his four seasons with the Chiefs, Nelson joined the Steelers as a marquee free agent signing prior to the 2019 campaign, and he started all 30 games he played, with three interceptions, 17 passes defensed, and 109 total tackles. The Eagles had an up-close-and-not-very-pleasant look at Nelson in 2020 as he intercepted two Carson Wentz passes in Pittsburgh’s 38-29 win on October 11 at Heinz Field. It was Nelson’s first multi-interception game of his career.

With the start of Training Camp this week – the players report to the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday and hit the practice field for the first time in camp on Wednesday— new DC Jonathan Gannon plans on giving his defensive players a fresh look as he eyes them in pads for the first time when Training Camp begins. The Eagles have had only a handful of weeks to work with players – no pads, no contact, no lining up against another player – through the spring, so Gannon is bringing an open-minded approach to his summer evaluation. Gannon wants his defense to play aggressive, physical, and smart football, emphasizing takeaways and stuffing the running game. Nelson fits that mold with his seven interceptions and 32 passes defensed from 2018-20.

 

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