In March the Pittsburgh Steelers terminated the contract of cornerback Steven Nelson just hours after he publicly complained about the team holding him “hostage,” and just days after the club reportedly gave him permission to seek a trade.
In the months since, Nelson—still a solid starting cornerback—has been linked to numerous teams, but the Philadelphia Eagles have always expressed the strongest sustained interest. So it was no surprise when Philadelphia announced on Sunday that it had agreed to a contract with the seven-year veteran. Terms were not disclosed, but ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler indicates that it’s a one-year deal “worth more than $4 million, per source….”
That’s less than half of the $8.25 million he was scheduled to earn in the third and final year of his three-year contract with the Steelers, who moved on from him in hopes that a less expensive cornerback (or two) can fill his role.
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Darius Slay Applauds the Signing
In Philadelphia, Nelson is expected to compete for playing time opposite cornerback Darius Slay, who repeatedly urged Nelson to sign with the Eagles.
So it was no surprise that Slay was quick to welcome Nelson to Philly via tweet:
Or that Nelson was quick to acknowledge the warm wishes:
Meanwhile, Back in Pittsburgh …
The Steelers already seem to have a well-defined plan for replacing Nelson’s spot in the starting lineup. On Saturday the club released its initial training camp depth chart, which shows Cameron Sutton—signed to a two-year contract extension for $9 million—taking Nelson’s place opposite Joe Haden as the team’s No. 2 cornerback.
The Steelers also have high hopes for Sutton’s backup, James Pierre, a former undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic. Mike Tomlin & Co. also appear to view 2020 draft pick Antoine Brooks Jr. as the most likely successor to Mike Hilton at slot cornerback, with free agent acquisition Arthur Maulet also getting a long look-see.
This figures to be a pivotal year for 2019 third-round pick Justin Layne, who enters training camp as Haden’s backup at left cornerback. Layne—who is 6-foot-2—would seem to have the size speed and skill to develop into a starting CB, but has yet to maximize his potential.
Layne didn’t do himself any favors, though, when he was arrested and charged with a firearm offense after a traffic stop in Cleveland back in April. He quickly accepted a plea deal, so the issue is behind him, pending successful completion of his probation and community service.
But if Layne falters, the Steelers have four candidates who could potentially take his place, including former undrafted free agent DeMarkus Acy, plus other intriguing developmental prospects like: Stephen Denmark, a 2019 seventh-round pick of the Chicago Bears; former Duke cornerback Mark Gilbert, a cousin of former Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis, who went on to become a four-time first-team All-Pro for the New York Jets; and Shakur Brown, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Michigan State who is said to “play like an angry hornet.”
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