Could free agent CB Steven Nelson still be of interest to the Browns?
The Cleveland Browns have been spending a lot of resources this offseason improving their defense, especially the defensive line and secondary units. With the start of off-season training activities, the Browns will have the opportunity to take a look at some of the players who they hope will improve this side of the ball.
The defensive line added big names like Jadeveon Clowney, Malik Jackson and Takk McKinley. The line is also expected to pick up Andrew Billings (COVID-19 withdrawal) and Curtis Weaver (injured reserve) after missing all of last season.
The secondary also got huge improvements with the signing of John Johnson III and Troy Hill from the league’s top pass defense when drafting Greg Newsome II and Richard LeCounte III. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a linebacker but has skills and experience in security and slot-like roles to help the high school as well.
With Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams both expected to miss 2020 due to injury, the secondary should have plenty of extra help for top defensive back Denzel Ward in 2021.
Could there be room for another?
Steven Nelson has been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers to resolve the team’s salary cap issues. He played six years in the NFL, the last two with the Steelers. Nelson has started 15 or more games in four of his six seasons, including the last three.
At 28, Nelson is still considered close to the prime of his career.
In 2020, Nelson had two interceptions and was rated by Pro Football Focus with an overall rating of 67.1 and a cover rating of 68.1, good for the 48th best cover corner in the NFL.
For reference, Terrance Mitchell was ranked 75th on cover with a 63.4 rating last year as the Browns’ number two cornerback.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell (Insider, $) recently predicted that Nelson would sign a one-year contract for $ 4.5 million. Barnwell guessed that the Arizona Cardinals would be the team to sign him, but could the Browns be aggressive to acquire his services?
Along with the Browns, Nelson would be competing with Newsome and Williams for shots in nickel and dime situations. He would have the opportunity to play his former team twice in the regular season and play for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
The Browns may not be willing to pay as high a price as Barnwell assumed, and at the end of the offseason only injury could help Nelson exert his influence, but they could structure a competitive deal.
Beyond his contractual requirements, Nelson may not want to come to Cleveland given Joe Woods’ stated intention to play three sureties and the team’s investment in Ward, Hill, Newsome and Williams. While a team can never have too many cover players, Nelson could find his way to another multi-year deal by going somewhere where he could be used more often.
Right now, the Browns have a myriad of guys hoping to make the roster behind Ward, Hill, Newsome and Williams. Nelson has more experience and is more talented than all of them, but would cost more in ceiling space and may not want to pick the Browns.
Steven Nelson would be a useful addition to Cleveland’s revamped high school, he just seems like an unlikely addition at this point.