The four-year Chiefs cornerback will receive a three-year, $25.5MM pact. Nelson figures to be in line to make a strong run at the starting corner job opposite Joe Haden. While this is not a high-end cornerback contract, it is one of the biggest free agent deals the continuity-centric Steelers have ever finalized.
The Steelers’ Artie Burns pick has not gone as the franchise had hoped, with the 2016 first-round selection having been benched last season. Nelson had a much busier season, being picked on often. But the 2015 third-round pick intercepted four passes — the first four of his career — and was a constant in the Chiefs’ secondary.
Nelson, 26, did not play much as a rookie but emerged as Kansas City’s slot defender in 2016. After an injury-delayed 2017, Nelson moved outside and worked in that role last season. Pro Football Focus graded Nelson as the No. 33 corner last year.
He will join Haden in comprising a free agent tandem at corner for the draft-and-develop organization, with undrafted free agent Mike Hilton likely to continue to work in the slot. Haden has one season remaining on his three-year, $27MM contract.
One interesting side effect from this agreement: it may well affect the Steelers’ compensatory pick for Le’Veon Bell. The All-Pro running back’s next deal is not known, but OverTheCap’s Nick Korte projects (via Twitter) that if Bell signs for less than $11MM per year, the Steelers’ compensatory pick for him will drop to a fourth-rounder because of this Nelson deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.