The “Steven Nelson Watch” is finally over. The Philadelphia Eagles inked the stud cornerback to a one-year deal worth “more than $4 million,” per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The team confirmed the move on Sunday but didn’t elaborate on contract details.
It seems like an extremely cheap price for a guy called the 13th-best cornerback in the NFL heading into the 2021 season. Nelson ranks among the top 10 cornerbacks in the league in both completion rate allowed (53.9%) and passer rating allowed (75.1) among 68 players at the position to see at least 100 targets since 2019, per Pro Football Focus.
He’ll be lining up opposite three-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay this season in what has suddenly turned into a scary Eagles’ secondary. Philly released defensive tackle Willie Henry to make room on the roster.
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Nelson’s Contrac Details Revealed
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added that Nelson’s one-year deal was worth $2.5 million in base salary and could escalate to $4.125 million with incentives. Again, that’s an incredibly affordable price for a 28-year-old cornerback with seven interceptions since 2018. Big win for the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro tried to downplay the rumor of Nelson stepping right into a starting role. Head coach Nick Sirianni has preached competition at every position all summer and this is no different. He’ll get the first crack at the outside corner spot, with Avonte Maddox pushing him. Fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson might have something to say about it, too. Spadaro wrote:
Nelson’s arrival doesn’t mean that he’s a plug-and-play starter in this defense. 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.
Players report to South Philly for training camp on July 28. Let the competitions begin for real.
Jonathan Gannon Looking for ‘Smart Backs’
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon knows a thing or two about smart cornerbacks. He was a former assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings (2014-17) and cornerbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts (2018-20) before arriving in Philly. It’s widely assumed he’ll be taking a hands-on approach with the Eagles’ secondary and now he was two elite corners to mold. Slay and Nelson should thrive under Gannon’s tutelage.
“I would say the first trait that we look for on the back end is smart. We want guys to be able to think,” Gannon told reporters on May when asked about the Eagles’ young secondary. “Obviously, with the outside guys, coverability. You mentioned kind of my expertise is that position in the back end.
“Again, I learned this from people as I got groomed coming up in the profession is there’s a lot of different ways to play corner, a lot. Within the same scheme, there’s a lot of different ways for guys to function out there and play winning football. So that goes into figuring out what our guys can do and then how can we help them and play a certain way.”
Slay enters his second year in Philadelphia, while Nelson comes on board following two successful years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.