The Buffalo Bills could get a second chance to land the veteran cornerback that got away last year.
Early in the last offseason, reports indicated that the Bills were among a group of teams interested in former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Steve Nelson as they looked to add some depth behind Tre’Davious White. Now, with White rebabbing a torn ACL and potentially missing some of the start of the season, Buffalo’s need for help in the secondary is even greater, and they could have another chance at Nelson.
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Nelson Could Bring Strong Value
While the Bills have brought in help at a number of positions, they have not yet made any additions in the secondary, even after losing Levi Wallace in free agency. They could have a chance with Nelson, who Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine identified as one of the most underrated free agents still on the market.
Ballentine noted that Nelson had a rough season with the Eagles and wasn’t much better with the Steelers the previous year. Over the last two seasons, Nelson has given up 12 touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards, he noted, but could be ripe for a bounce-back season.
“He’s capable of playing much better, though. In his first season in Pittsburgh, he was lights-out, giving up no touchdowns and a passer rating of 65.8 when targeted while playing 99 percent of the defensive snaps,” Ballentine noted.
Ballentine said Nelson could be a cheap addition for a team in need of a No. 2 cornerback, which would fit the needs for the Bills.
“He’s also only 29. It’s well-worth the gamble to give him a one-year deal, as he can still be a No. 2 outside corner and might return to peak form,” he wrote.
Bills May Have Other Options
Though the Bills have prioritized other positions since the start of free agency — especially defensive line, where they added All-Pro edge rusher Von Miller — general manager Brandon Beane has hinted that there will still be more additions to come through the draft. Free agency could also be an option, though Beane noted that the team doesn’t have the cap space to make any moves right now.
“My main focus right now is just the [NFL] Draft,” Beane said. “We’re out of money, unless you guys have some here. So yeah, other than that, I mean, we’ll always look. We’re always looking. After the draft, we’ll be looking. Like, you know, we’re never satisfied.
“We’ve got a lot of positions that I still want to get more depth. We’re not just waking up every day, going `where’s the corner?’ We’re looking everywhere, and we’ve got a lot of time. We don’t play games until September, so it’s my job to make sure we have the roster ready by then.”
There could be some moves Beane can make to gain more cap space and potentially create room for another cornerback, whether it be Nelson or another veteran. As Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News pointed out, they could release linebacker and special teams ace Tyler Matakevich to free up $2.5 million, and could get another $2.5 million with a simple restructuring of Josh Allen’s contract.