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Reggie Nelson contract projection: What will the Bengals safety command in NFL Free Agency?

Will Reggie Nelson be back in Bengals stripes? Based on these contract projections, the odds are looking better.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals are in a bit of a quandary this offseason regarding their starting safeties.

George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are currently scheduled to hit free agency, and it's possible one or both of them won't back in the Queen City next season. While Iloka is the younger guy with a longer playing time ahead of him, Nelson was easily one of the best NFL safeties this past season.

That should in theory lead to a big contract this offseason for Nelson, but his age raises a bit of question as to how much his next deal will be worth over the length of the contract. Even at 32-years-old, Nelson may be about to sign the biggest contract of his professional career.

His most recent deal came in 2012 when he signed a four-year, $18-million deal to remain in Cincinnati. Nelson rewarded the team as he recorded 23 interceptions, five forced fumbles, 313 tackles and five fumble recoveries across 93 career games with the Bengals.

There's really no question that Nelson was one of the five or six most important Bengals this past season, and losing him would be a major hit to a secondary. But at 32 years of age, are the Bengals ready to commit another big contract to Nelson, and is any NFL team for that matter?

Sportrac is projecting Nelson to receive a deal paying him close to $5 million annually, possibly for as long as four years. They based this on some comparable players and the deals they signed near Nelson's age:

DeAngelo Hall 4 $17,000,000 $4,250,000 30
Mike Adams 2 $4,850,000 $2,425,000 33
Antrel Rolle 3 $11,250,000 $3,750,000 32
Glover Quin 5 $23,500,000 $4,700,000 27
AVERAGES 3.5 $14,150,000 $4,042,857 30.5

Personally, I think the contract Rolle got is closer to what Nelson will receive. At 32, he probably only has 1-2 good years left, so it's hard to see him getting a deal that reaches four years.

After adjusting the above contracts as if signed at Nelson's current age, Spotrac provided the following initial value.

4 $16,959,259 $4,239,815

Then after applying their formulas and calculations to this, they ultimately came up with this calculated market value for Nelson:

4 years, $19,384,857 4,846,214

I don't think Nelson will get a four year a deal, but that annual contract value of $4+ million per season is accurate. I just think that ends up being a two or three-year deal; but is that even something the Bengals would pay Nelson?

That depends on what they do with Iloka, who is younger and has been as good as Nelson when healthy. The problem is that the rest of the NFL knows this, and that should lead to Iloka signing one of the biggest contracts a defensive player gets this offseason.

That will then lead to the Bengals offering Nelson a deal close to, if not exactly that of the best offer he's getting on the open market. The only question then is if he takes it or opts to join another team, and as of now, he says he would love to be back in Cincinnati.