A former "bust" with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Reggie Nelson was traded to Cincinnati for a bag of peanuts in 2010 after three seasons in Jacksonville. Since then, Nelson has been a mainstay in a successful Bengals secondary. After a career year in 2015, a Bengals defensive captain heads into free agency at the age of 32.
In 2015, Nelson had 77 combined tackles, 52 of which were solo tackles, two stuffs for loss, 8 interceptions and 14 passes defensed. Statistically speaking, he was the most impressive Bengals defensive back in 2015. And, in the last year of his contract, it was a great year to have such an impressive season in which he tied the lead for interceptions in the NFL. In his six years with the Bengals, Nelson totaled 460 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, and 61 passes defensed.
What should the Bengals do with Reggie Nelson? Will he remain in Cincinnati or will he be in a new uniform in 2016?
What he does well: Nelson is still very athletic at his age. Known for that, he's been pegged as a free safety and was used at cornerback during his time in Jacksonville. For the Bengals, they initially stripped down that versatility and built Nelson back up as an NFL strong safety. These days, we know him as a hard-hitter, run defending, blitzing safety with that old athleticism that allows the Bengals to get creative and rotate their safeties. Nelson is good in coverage, has a nose for the ball and isn't afraid to take some chances. Every year, the Bengals have added more to Nelson's plate, and in five years of starting, his versatility became a key to the Bengals defense. Nelson's tackling form has also been highly regarded, with hits like this one, which even got praise from its recipient.
Concerns: Concerns with Nelson will likely center around age. At 32, how many more years will he play and how many will be at a high level? He's been mostly healthy with the Bengals even though he did injure his ankle in the Bengals' Wild Card loss to the Steelers in January. The extent of that injury is unknown, but he did miss the Pro Bowl while recovering. On the field, Nelson struggled early in 2015 with missed tackles, but quickly turned it around and caught fire halfway through the year.
Overall, Nelson is a very good player and one of the Bengals' best defenders. He capped off 2015 with his first career Pro Bowl and was listed as a second team All Pro. Nelson's age might keep his price down but with Shawn Williams waiting in the wings, Nelson could also be seen as expendable in Cincinnati. No matter what happens, his career will be remembered favorably by Bengals fans.