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Reggie Nelson shocked by lack of interest in free agency; excited to reunite with Jack Del Rio

Shawn Williams is officially the next man up in Cincinnati.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It took over a month, but Reggie Nelson is officially a member of the Oakland Raiders. In retrospect, Nelson's signing with Oakland seems like a perfect fit. Oakland desperately needed a safety, and Nelson will be reuniting with former head coach Jack Del Rio in the bay area.

Reggie Nelson has big shoes to fill in Oakland, as he'll essentially be replacing future Hall of Fame safety Charles Woodson as the team's veteran leader in the secondary. Like he's done for years, Nelson remained humble as he entered Oakland, despite leaving Del Rio's Jaguars on a bitter note.

In a conference call with the Oakland media, Nelson described what it was like to come in and try to replace Woodson, via ESPN.

"Trust me, you can't replace Charles Woodson at all," Nelson said. "The only guy I can be is Reggie and continue to play my game and get better. My name might not mean much compared to Charles Woodson, so I can't come in and worry about filling shoes that he did because he had one heck of a career. You're talking about a Hall of Famer."

"It's nothing but respect to Charles. All that I can do is come in and do what Ken (Norton Jr., defensive coordinator) and Jack ask me to do and play my game and continue to go get that ball."

Nelson was a ball-hawk for the Bengals, especially in 2015 when he picked off a league-high eight passes. So it was a bit surprising to see such a dry market for a safety of Nelson's caliber. Nelson himself even seemed surprised.

"I mean, I was shocked," Nelson said. "I expected to be signed (early), but patience is a virtue. I just was being patient and waiting on the right team. It so happened Oakland came and Jack was in Oakland, so I felt comfortable coming back with Jack and just reuniting with him."

To me, Nelson's Raiders are beginning to look like the 2012 Bengals. Oakland has filled needs all along the offense and defense, drafting well and bringing in key players like Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and now Nelson. Plenty of NFL fans see reason to be optimistic, and Nelson seems to be just as excited.

"I'm excited, man," Nelson said. "I was a different dude when (Jacksonville) drafted me. I'm a veteran now, wiser. I'm just excited to see what (Del Rio) has going on in Oakland and, like I said, just be a part of that.

"I love Jack and always have, so I'm just excited to be reunited with him."

Nelson's right. He's quietly become one of the NFL's savviest safeties. Though the safety never had any major issues in Jacksonville, he's become much wiser, humbler and more impactful of a player over the course of his Bengals career. Nelson will be missed in Cincinnati, as the safety was a lynchpin in the Bengals' ball-hawking secondary for years.

Now, it is up to George Iloka and Shawn Williams to prove management right in believing that the letting Nelson walk wouldn't be followed by a severe dropoff at the safety position.