Steven Nelson

West Rumors: Gates, Cardinals, Chiefs

Less than a month remains until the Chargers break for training camp, and they have not yet made a move to fill the void Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear created. The Bolts have reached out to Antonio Gates, but the future Hall of Famer remains unattached. However, longtime Gates teammate LaDainian Tomlinson believes the 38-year-old pass-catcher is not interested in overtures from other teams, especially given the Chargers’ current predicament.

I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers,” said Tomlinson, who serves as a special assistant to the Chargers’ front office, on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via NFL.com). “I think he has the mind frame of, ‘If I go play, it’s gonna be for the Chargers. If it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.”

Gates has not been connected to other teams this offseason. The Chargers and Gates have been circling each other for weeks now. A reunion — one Tom Telesco is now open to — may come during camp in the event the Bolts are not pleased with their tight end situation. Virgil Green represents the only proven healthy tight end on the roster at this point.

Shifting to one of the teams that will start camp earlier because of the hiring of a new head coach, here’s what’s new out of the West divisions.

  • Based on the events of this offseason, Christian Kirk expects the first NFL passes he’ll catch to be from Sam Bradford. Despite the Cardinals easing their injury-plagued acquisition into work, Kirk’s gotten the impression Bradford will be the starter in Week 1. “To be honest, just with what the coaches have said and just the way it’s looking, I’m pretty sure Sam is going to start,” Kirk said during an NFL Total Access appearance (via NFL.com). Bradford’s Vikings run encountered a steep descent after Week 1 of last season, so recent Josh Rosen praise is probably relevant to the Cards’ short-term matters as well as their long-distance future.
  • One of the Cardinals who can expect more work in 2018 will be Ricky Seals-Jones, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Jurecki sees the second-year UDFA seeing far more targets compared to the 28 he saw last season, even with Jermaine Gresham still on the team. Seals-Jones caught 12 passes for 201 yards and three TDs in 2017.
  • Attempting to piece together a new-look secondary, the Chiefs are trying Steven Nelson as an outside cornerback. Nelson played almost exclusively outside during Kansas City’s offseason program, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m an outside corner,” he said, via Taylor. “I’ll just say that. It’s up to the coaches. I can play both, I’m versatile. But for this (summer), I’ve been outside.” Nelson previously functioned as K.C.’s slot corner in both 2016 and ’17, but with Kendall Fuller now in line to commandeer that role, the Chiefs are shuttling Nelson to the boundary in advance of his contract year. Nelson served as a full-time corner in 2016 before an injury-plagued 2017, and a Fuller-Nelson-David Amerson setup could be in the works for K.C. post-Marcus Peters. Not much depth exists behind this troika, so this would be the logical top three going into camp.

Chiefs Considered Trading Steven Nelson?

The Chiefs traded away top cornerback Marcus Peters last week, but the club also considered dealing another defensive back in Steven Nelson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link)."<strong

It’s unclear if Kansas City was choosing between a Peters or a Nelson trade, or if a deal involving Nelson could still come to fruition. The Chiefs had been shopping Peters for more than three weeks, tweets Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, so the club could have been discussing Nelson swaps during that period, as well.

Whether or not Nelson is dealt, the Chiefs’ defensive backfield figures to undergo significant change this offseason. Peters and Darrelle Revis (who was recently released) won’t be back in 2017, while Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, and Kenneth Acker all are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. It hasn’t been all subtractions for Kansas City’s secondary, however, as the club did acquire cornerback Kendall Fuller as part of the Alex Smith trade and ink ex-Raiders cornerback David Amerson to a one-year deal.

Nelson, 25, has been an above-average corner for the majority of his three-year career. In 2017, Nelson didn’t come off injured reserve until October while dealing with a core muscle ailment, but became a starter immediately upon his activation and graded as the league’s No. 62 corner among 121 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. The year prior, Nelson finished 36th among 84 cornerbacks in Football Outsiders’ success rate.

A third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2015, Nelson has one season left on his rookie contract. Thanks to the NFL’s proven performance escalator program, Nelson will earn a base salary of $1.908MM during the upcoming campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Chiefs Activate CB Steven Nelson Off IR

The Chiefs announced that they have activated cornerback Steven Nelson off of injured reserve. Kansas City first decided to bring Nelson back last week, but it’s now official. Steven Nelson (vertical)

A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson in the summer, forcing KC to park him on IR for the first two months of the season. Now that he’s served his time, the Chiefs are using one of their two IR-DTR spots to bring him back.

Nelson, 24, started for the Chiefs last season and he could slide back into his old job rather quickly. Terrance Mitchell has filled in as a starting corner for Kansas City, but he’s struggled (No. 85 CB per Pro Football Focus), so Nelson would be the obvious choice to take over, provided that he is near 100% healthy.

Last year, Nelson played 90% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps opposite Marcus Peters. In his 15 games (14 starts), he had 64 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and 16 passes defensed.

The 5-2 Chiefs will face the Broncos on Monday night. If they win, they’ll enter a three-way tie with the Patriots and the Steelers for the top record in the AFC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs To Bring CB Steven Nelson Off IR

The Chiefs intend to bring cornerback Steven Nelson off injured reserve, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link), who reports Nelson’s status has been changed to reserve/injured with a designation to return.Steven Nelson (Vertical)

Nelson suffered a core muscle injury during the summer, but the Chiefs placed him on their initial 53-man roster instead of putting him on IR before final cutdowns. That maneuver now allows them to bring Nelson back, and that’s been the plan all along. Nelson, 24, was full-time starter during the 2016 campaign, as he played 90% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps opposite Marcus Peters.

Nelson’s return should buoy a Chiefs defense that ranks just 21st in DVOA and 17th in passing defense DVOA. Terrance Mitchell has filled in as a starting corner for Kansas City, but he’s struggled (No. 81 CB per Pro Football Focus), so it shouldn’t be surprising is Nelson immediately slides back into his old role. Mitchell and Phillip Gaines should be used more sparingly once Nelson returns.

NFL rules now allow clubs to bring two players back from IR, but the Chiefs don’t have any other options at present to designate as return players. Safety Eric Berry, running back Spencer Ware, wide receiver Chris Conley, and defensive back Ashton Lampkin all suffered season-ending injuries that won’t allow them to return in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Bolles, Bucannon, Chiefs, Hawks

Despite the Broncos fearing multiple severe injuries for left tackle Garett Bolles, the rookie suited up for practice on Thursday and has a chance to play against the Bills. Vance Joseph (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) said the team thought Bolles’ injury, determined to be a bruise on his lower left leg, was more serious than it ended up being. Joseph said the first-round pick is “getting better fast” but is obviously hesitant about proclaiming him ready to return to the starting lineup. Bolles has fared well in his first two games, prior to being carted off in the third quarter of the Broncos’ Week 2 win.

Bolles said he also “thought it was serious” and will not rush back. Denver’s bye comes in Week 5, so holding Bolles out for two games would make sense. But his return to practice, on a limited basis, so soon bodes well for a possible return against the Bills or Raiders before the week off.

Donald Stephenson initially received the call to replace Bolles at left tackle Sunday, but utility man Allen Barbre ended up seeing more time there. Barbre and Max Garcia were alternating at left guard, but the veteran played tackle with the Eagles at times in recent years and provides versatility if the Broncos aren’t keen on throwing Stephenson — whom they replaced at right tackle in free agency with Menelik Watson — back out there. Bolles represents the fourth left tackle starter in four seasons for the Broncos, who have also seen numerous players line up with the first-stringers on the right edge in that time.

Here’s more from the Western divisions prior to tonight’s NFC West matchup.

  • Deone Bucannon‘s lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated just before Week 1, could produce the Cardinals inside linebacker returning to action in Week 3, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Bruce Arians said (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com) Bucannon’s “getting real close” to returning but would be on a snap count if he did so against the Cowboys. The Cards have used Karlos Dansby and first-rounder Haason Reddick as starters while Bucannon’s been out. Bucannon underwent surgery in May.
  • Speaking of injury returns, it sounds like the Chiefs are planning to make cornerback Steven Nelson one of their IR-boomerang players. The third-year corner is eligible to come off IR in Week 9, and Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star notes that return is likely. For the time being, the Chiefs have gotten by with 2016 practice squad promotion Terrance Mitchell operating as Marcus Peters‘ top complement. However, Pro Football Focus rates Mitchell and Phillip Gaines — the former third-round pick whom Mitchell usurped late last season — as its Nos. 96 and 100 full-time cornerbacks through two games. A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson, K.C.’s primary slot defender last season.
  • Do the Seahawks miss Jermaine Kearse? Seattle’s offense has largely sputtered in its first two games, and Doug Baldwin does see a hole where Kearse — traded to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson — departed. “Specifically on the football field, just the intricacies that he did in our offense, guys aren’t used to doing it, they didn’t have to do them, because Jermaine was so willing and able to do it, now guys are being called to do those things and that is another challenge for us,” Baldwin said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Paul Richardson and third-round rookie Amara Darboh are seeing more time, Richardson especially, after Kearse’s exit. Baldwin leads Seattle’s wideout contingent with 107 air yards; no other Hawks pass-catcher has 80.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC West

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC West teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC West transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Oakland Raiders

Chiefs Sign Marcus Peters

The Chiefs announced that they have signed three rookies, including two of their draft picks from this year’s class. First-round cornerback Marcus Peters, third-round cornerback Steven Nelson, and undrafted free agent defensive tackle Charles Tuaau are all under contract with KC.

Peters, 22, was selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the draft. The former Washington star has undeniable talent, but some teams stayed away from him due to perceived attitude issues. While at Washington last season, he was suspended one game for acting out on the sidelines after committing a personal foul. However, assuming that he can stay on the right track in terms of his temper, he figures have a bright future at the cornerback position. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network noted that Peters possesses great size for the position in his pre-draft profile on the player.

Nelson, an Oregon State product, was a two-year starter after transferring from junior college. Last season he racked up 60 total tackles, two interceptions, and 10 past deflections across 12 games. Nelson was selected with the 98th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Draft Visits: Jets, Jags, Steelers, Lions

Draft day is only a week and a half away, but teams are still bringing in prospects for visits and working them out, as they try to compile as much information as possible on this year’s draft class. Here are a few Monday updates on the latest visits and workouts:

  • Leonard Williams, DL (USC); Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB (Florida): Making their previously-reported visits to the Jets this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • Denzel Perryman, LB (Miami): Visiting the Jaguars today, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.
  • Darryl Roberts, CB (Marshall); Bryce Callahan, CB (Rice); Steven Nelson, CB (Oregon State): All visiting the Steelers today, according to Wilson (Twitter link).
  • Jamison Crowder, WR (Duke): Has had private workouts with Panthers, Buccaneers, and Texans, per Wilson.
  • Carl Davis, DT (Iowa): Visiting the Lions today, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).
  • David Johnson, RB (Northern Iowa): Visiting the Falcons today, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Marcus Hardison, DL (Arizona State): Visiting the Bengals today and generating a lot of interest around the league, per Gil Brandt of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • Bud Sasser, WR (Missouri): Visiting the Broncos today, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

Draft Notes: Gordon, Hundley, McKinney, Lions

Two clubs who could be in need of a running back will meet with Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, a consensus top-two back in next month’s draft, as both the Cowboys and the Jaguars have lined up visits with the former Badger, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News and Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link), respectively. The Cowboys, who hold the 27th overall pick, are aiming to replace DeMarco Murray, while Jacksonville, who would probably target Gordon at the top of the second round, could use another back to team with Denard Robinson.

Let’s take a look at some more pre-draft news…

  • After Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, there aren’t many draft options at the quarterback position. One player in the mix to be third QB, however, is UCLA’s Brett Hundley, who says he’s already met with both the Eagles and the Jets, and plans to set up more visits, tweets SiriusXM NFL Radio.
  • The 49ers lost linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement in the past week, and they’ll look to the college ranks to fill that positional void. The club will meet with Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who will also visit the Broncos, Texans, and Cowboys, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link).
  • The Lions hosted a pair of defensive prospects today, as both Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson and Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips visited the Motor City, writes Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com in a pair of articles.