Steven Nelson Signing Addresses the Eagles’ Biggest Position of Need (Updated)

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let it be known that we had it first.

And by we, I mean the Crossing Broad mystery source:

2:26 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Got it four minutes before the Eagles tweeted it out. I expect everybody who writes about Steven Nelson today to credit the Crossing Broad mystery source for this excellent scoop. Great job by this mysterious individual.

But on a more serious note, the acquisition of Nelson, who comes here on a one-year deal worth more than four million dollars, addresses the Eagles’ biggest concern. They had absolutely nothing behind Darius Slay at cornerback, and with Nelson in the fold, now have a CB depth chart looking more respectable:

  1. Slay
  2. Nelson
  3. Avonte Maddox
  4. Zech McPhearson
  5. Craig James
  6. a couple of other guys

They desperately needed a CB2 and got it in Nelson, who is only here for one transitional season if necessary. He turns 29 in January so the Birds can offer him a long-term deal if he sticks, or let him walk and go a different route at CB2 if they want to do that instead.

Nelson, you’ll recall, picked off Carson Wentz twice in last year’s Birds/Steelers game. He’s played in all but two regular seasons for Pittsburgh and Kansas City over the past three seasons and logged seven interceptions and 32 pass break ups during that time frame.

The reason he ended up a free agent is because he was owed $8.5 million in the final year of his Steeler contract. Pittsburgh didn’t want to pay both him and Joe Haden, so they explored a trade and then ultimately granted his request for a contract termination.

Some info on that from Joe Rutter at TribLive:

Nelson was scheduled to count $14.42 million against the Steelers salary cap in 2021, the third year of his three-year, $25.5 million contract he signed in 2019. It is the largest contract the Steelers have given to an outside free agent.

By releasing Nelson, the Steelers will save $8.25 million in salary but will carry a dead cap hit of $6.17 million. 

Nelson and fellow veteran cornerback Joe Haden ($15.575 million) carried two of the top salary cap hits on the roster entering the offseason. The Steelers elected to keep Haden, 31, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, instead of Nelson.

So Howie Roseman swoops in to make him Nelson one-year offer. It works. It’s a good move for them.

And it makes the defense at least somewhat respectable. I have concerns about the Eagles’ D in general, but in a rebuilding year you can get by with this:

  • DE: Derek Barnett
  • DT: Fletcher Cox
  • DT: Javon Hargrave
  • DE: Brandon Graham
  • LB: Alex Singleton
  • LB: Eric Wilson
  • LB: Shaun Bradley/T.J. Edwards
  • CB: Darius Slay
  • S: Anthony Harris
  • S: Rodney McLeod
  • CB: Steven Nelson

That’s not bad. The Birds were a 4-3 base defense last year but spent about 70% of their time in nickel or other packages. This at least gives Jonathan Gannon some tools to work with, even if he’s got an aging defensive line and underwhelming linebacker corps.

The secondary was a joke prior to the Nelson signing, but with him and Harris both back there that unit is looking decent. Camp begins this week. Let’s get some video clips out there and get excited.


It’s a better deal than we thought –