CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 24: Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals gets tackled after a reception by Reggie Nelson #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Cardinals 23-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
+ Cincinnati Bengals starting free safety Reggie Nelson is headed to free agency this Tuesday. He's generally accepted as the team's top free agent by members of the media and Bengals fans alike, though we suspect that the Bengals aren't feeling the same. Instead of using their franchise tag to sign Nelson to a one-year deal worth a projected $6.2 million, they tagged place kicker Mike Nugent. And then there's the report from Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer that suggested that talks between the two sides have been quiet.
Why is that? Though true, the Bengals are historically slow movers when it comes to free agency, even with their own. And how many talks about an extension took place last year, with a full season remaining on Nelson's existing contract?
Let's face it. This team may simply not want him next year.
Is it money? According to a source via Joe Reedy, who deals with such things, Nelson could command a market value of over $5 million per season.
I asked a league source who tracks deals throughout the league what Nelson could command. He said given the deals of Daniel Manning and Charles Godfrey last year, Nelson could have a market value in the $5-5.5 million/per year range with a guarantee of $2-2.5 million per year.
We get that Nelson had a career-year in Cincinnati last season. But there has to be a level of apprehension at this point. Refusing the franchise tag isn't so much a matter of money for a team that's reportedly $60 million under the salary cap, as it might be a stronger desire not wanting him to return. And unless something happens (which is entirely possible from now until next week), that's exactly has it appears.