Should the Jets pursue ex-Steelers CB Steven Nelson in free agency?

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Tyler Calvaruso
·2 min read
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This year’s crop of free agent cornerbacks isn’t anything to write home about, but the pool of talent got a bit deeper when the Steelers granted Steven Nelson’s request for a release Tuesday.

Nelson signed a three-year, $25.5 million deal with Pittsburgh in 2019 and started 30 games in two seasons with the team. Nelson’s brief stint with the Steelers was a mostly-productive one, as he recorded 95 tackles, three interceptions, two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. The 28-year-old also ranked among the best man-to-man cover cornerbacks during his time in the Steel City, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Jets have made numerous free agent signings to upgrade in all three facets of the game so far this offseason, but have yet to address cornerback. Now that Nelson is available for the taking, that could change sooner rather than later.

The Steelers did not show Nelson the door due to any sort of struggles on the field. The Oregon State product was nothing but solid in his role for Pittsburgh, making it likely the Oregon State product will have suitors knocking down his door sooner rather than later.

Joe Douglas would be wise to be among the front office executives trying to secure Nelson’s signature.

It is understandable that Douglas and the Jets have yet to sign a defensive back so far in free agency. The top names on the cornerback market — Troy Hill and William Jackson III — were not exactly enticing options. Adoree’ Jackson profiled as a potential target for New York after the Titans let him go, but Douglas opted not to throw his hat in the ring.

Now that Nelson is available for the taking without any strings attached, it’s time for Douglas to start working the phones. The Jets’ current cornerback depth chart is not exactly inspiring and is in desperate need of multiple upgrades. Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have the potential to develop into starting cornerbacks down the road, but New York needs to stop relying on potential and bring in impact players if it ever wants to be a contender under Robert Saleh.

Nelson’s skill set aligns ideally with Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive scheme. Money also is not a problem for the Jets in the slightest right now. Douglas emphasizes value as much as any general manager in football and Nelson carries plenty of that. If New York is ever going to upgrade its cornerback room before the 2021 NFL draft, now is the time.

Nelson is the player to make a push for.

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