Secondary feels draft with Nelson trade

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 4, 2010 – 9:07 pm

So the Bengals did end up keeping a former first-round pick of the Jaguars after all on Saturday’s NFL cutdown day.

But it wasn’t wide receiver Matt Jones, released earlier in the day as the Bengals made room for Jerome Simpson and Quan Cosby.

It turned out to be safety Reggie Nelson, acquired for cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick about 30 minutes after the 6 p.m. deadline to get rosters to 53.

In the wake of the season-ending injury to Gibril Wilson and the decision to cut all three veterans vying to take his place as one of the four safeties, the Bengals turned to the Jaguars No. 1 pick from 2007.

The Bengals know the 5-11, 206-pound Nelson well.   

The move now gives the Bengals secondary five first-round picks and one they almost had when the Jaguars took Florida’s Nelson with the 21st pick. The Bengals ended up taking Michigan cornerback Leon Hall at No. 18, but had Nelson on their radar as one of their Plan Bs if Hall slipped through.

He ended up tying Hall to lead all NFL rookies with five interceptions that season.

Now Nelson joins Hall and three other first-rounders in the Bengals secondary. There is Johnathan Joseph at the corner opposite Hall, a ’06 first rounder, as well as 2005 first-rounder Adam Jones at the third corner and 2002 first-rounder Roy Williams at strong safety.

“Trade great for us,” texted head coach Marvin Lewis on Saturday. “Acquiring a young player with tremendous upside and two years left on his contract.”

The Bengals kept just three safeties at Saturday’s 53-man cutdown, so they were anticipating making some kind of move. Now instead of six cornerbacks, they have five corners and four safeties with safety Chris Crocker able to play corner in a pinch.

Nelson had a big rookie year with five of his seven career interceptions but didn’t seem to adapt to what new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker did with him last year. Tucker moved him all over, including into slot corner, and he even started one game at left corner.

But he’s advertised as a free safety with good range.  In 42 starts with the Jags, Nelson had 162 solo tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles. With special teams captain Kyries Hebert among Saturday’s cuts, Nelson will more than likely be asked to contribute in the kicking game. Four of his 18 special teams tackles came last season in a year he started 14 games before he was replaced in the next to last game of the season.

The Bengals picked up Jones on this weekend three years ago when they plucked him off waivers from the Saints. They got a lot of bang for their buck. He started seven of 33 games and had 47 tackles and eight passes defensed.

He was Cincinnati’s third corner in 2008 but got supplanted by rookie Morgan Trent last year after he missed virtually all of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with a broken foot.

After going 18 years without making a player-for-player trade, the Bengals have now made one before each of the last two seasons. In May 2009 they picked up Rams running back Brian Leonard for defensive tackle Orien Harris.

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