The NY Jets are still in pretty dire need of a cornerback this offseason, even after spending a large portion of their available cap space. But one player who represents a golden opportunity at a potential upgrade is Steven Nelson.
The Pittsburgh Steelers officially released Nelson on Tuesday after attempting to find a trade partner over the last few days. Nelson was released as a cap casualty, but he’s expected to have plenty of interest around the league.
One team that should be all over his market is the Jets.
Eyeing an upgrade at the cornerback position, there really isn’t a viable excuse for the Jets not to at least explore Nelson’s market.
Steven Nelson would be a great addition for the NY Jets
A third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft, Nelson took over as a full-time starter in his second season. He spent all four years of his rookie contract in Kansas City developing into a reliable starting cornerback.
But given the Chiefs’ tricky cap situation, he left to sign with the Steelers ahead of the 2019 season. Pittsburgh signed him to a three-year, $25.5 million contract worth $8.5 million per season.
And that deal turned out to be one of the steals of the offseason.
Nelson put together the best year of his career finishing with a near-elite 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade that ranked sixth out of all cornerbacks in the NFL.
The Oregon State product was legitimately one of the best cornerbacks in football in 2019 and made a name for himself as one of the unheralded surprises of the season.
While he didn’t match his 2019 production in 2020, he still remained a rock-solid starting cornerback finishing with a 68.1 PFF grade that ranked 36th at his position. Essentially, he was still a high-end No. 2 cornerback.
The Jets desperately need cornerback help with a current depth chart that lists Bryce Hall, Blessuan Austin, and Javelin Guidry as their trio of starters.
Guidry will likely be replaced with a free-agent nickel cornerback (K’Waun Williams?) and it’s expected that the Jets will target a cornerback early in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the Jets would still be wise to add a capable veteran.
After all, it would be unwise to rely on an outside trio of Hall, Austin, and an early-round pick at the cornerback position in 2021. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Nelson would give the Jets a high-end starting cornerback who could stabilize the position. They have the cap space to get a deal done, and while there’s more that goes into landing a free agent, that wouldn’t excuse them from showing a lack of interest.
The Jets must at least make an honest effort to sign Steven Nelson. No excuses this time.