The 2021 NFL Draft was the most recent headliner for talent acquisition this offseason, but the roster churn never stops. Nor does the search for talent.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to see the Chicago Bears connected to an intriguing free agent who remains unemployed:
Cornerback Steven Nelson’s market has been strong since becoming a free agent. Nelson has interest and has heard from 14 teams including #Texans #Bears #Eagles #Bengals and #Bills, per source. He continues to be patient waiting for right fit and opportunity.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 12, 2021
Cornerback Steven Nelson has a robust market, and among the 14 suitors are the Chicago Bears, a team which makes sense for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the team’s inexperience at cornerback.
Should Chicago start the year as is, the secondary could open against Matthew Stafford and the Rams with two second-year corners (Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor) and a third-year player (Duke Shelley) with just two games of starting experience. That seems sub-optimal.
With that being said, it’s not difficult to imagine the Bears providing the right fit or opportunity for a free agent. Nelson, 28, has 82 games (68 starts) of experience under his belt. He spent four years with the Chiefs (2015-18) and two seasons with the Steelers (2019-20), collecting 7 interceptions and defending 52 passes during those years. Frankly, I can’t not see that his time in Kansas City came while Matt Nagy was with the Chiefs. I suppose if anyone should know what’s the deal with Nelson, it should be someone whose quarterbacks had to throw against him in practice every day.
The hangup with Nelson figures to be money. Patience is a virtue and all that jazz. But one reason Nelson remains unsigned is because he hasn’t been given a contract to his liking. For instance, former teammate Mike Hilton signed a four-year deal worth $6M AAV. I don’t think Nelson will net a deal that could be worth $24 million over the life of a contract. However, there is value in a cornerback who has has experience in the slot, as well as outside on the boundary. That could prove to be important for Sean Desai’s defense, especially with all the young blood in the room.
In the end, let’s keep an eye on the Bears here. There is an obvious need and fit. But Chicago will need to create some cap space if it wants to make room for Nelson among the corners.