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Bengals put on the Full Nelson

Posted Mar 18, 2012


Reggie Nelson

Updated: 3-19-12

In the end, it came down to comfort for Reggie Nelson. Comfort and a shot at doing more than making the playoffs, like he helped the Bengals do last season.

"We've got a great young team and I wanted to be a part of that," Nelson said Sunday after he had agreed to a deal that keeps him one of the Bengals starters. "I never wanted to leave, but when we went on the market I had to keep my options open. But I'm comfortable being with the Bengals and these guys. It's where I want to be."

The agreement with Nelson capped a working weekend for the Bengals. According to various reports and sources, they agreed to three contracts that count for about $11 million under the 2012 salary cap after Nelson agreed to a deal that was believed to be the biggest for a safety this season. In Nelson and Carolina left guard Travelle Wharton the Bengals got two starters, and in Texans cornerback Jason Allen they got a guy that could start as Leon Hall comes back from a torn Achilles.

The club announced Wharton's acquisition Saturday and the media announced deals for Allen and Nelson on Saturday night and Sunday, respectively, and the visits keep coming. Running backs Michael Bush and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are reportedly visiting Cincinnati in the next 48 hours and The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Texans tight end Joel Dreessen is going to be in here Monday.

There has been nothing official coming out of the club save for Wharton, but the Bengals are officially getting some pretty good notices. Particularly from the Web site Profootballfocus.com.

"Quiet moves by the Bengals so far but they’ve taken an approach that free agency is a marathon, not a sprint, as they go about shaping their roster. Kudos," the site said Sunday night.

The Alllen announcement caught Nelson's eye. The duo know each other and are fellow first-rounders now going to work for the new secondary coaching tandem of Mark Carrier and Hue Jackson.

"We're close and the Brown (family) is putting together the pieces," Nelson said. "(Allen) is an A-plus move because he can play both safety and corner back there."

But Allen, who has started 23 games since the Dolphins took him in the first round in 2006, seems to have been signed to play only cornerback in a similar move that helped Nelson revive his career in Cincinnati. The Jaguars took Nelson in the first round in 2007 and bounced him between cornerback and safety, especially in his last season of 2009.

After the Bengals traded backup cornerback David Jones and a seventh-round draft pick for Nelson at the end of the 2010 preseason, they kept him at safety.

"It helped, but you're ready to do whatever the team needs you to do," Nelson said. "Jason Allen can play safety if we need him. It's good to be able to have that."

Nelson admitted he had a tough day Sunday as he weighed offers from the Bengals and the Jets. It's believed they were both meaty, more than $4 million per year, but Nelson was thinking about a lot of things.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say it was hard," Nelson said. "I had a great visit with the Jets. Yeah, I went back and forth. But my agent (Hadley Engelhard) was able to come to a great agreement with the Brown (family). I'm back in orange and black."

Nelson, 28, revived his career in Cincinnati in defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's scheme with a solid 2011 season in which he started all 16 games for the first time in his five NFL seasons and led the team in interceptions with four and was third in tackles and pass defensed. He drew high grades from profootballfocus.com for his coverage skills and became the top safety on the market.

"I got traded and I came in and I waited for my time," Nelson said. "It worked out well. I feel more at home in Cincinnati."

He returns with Chris Crocker as one of Zimmer's interchangeable safeties. Crocker is coming off an offseason knee procedure, but is expected to do work during spring drills. The Bengals are also trying to get snaps for a trio of young safeties: Taylor Mays, Robert Sands and Jeromy Miles.

Going off the list of visits the Bengals have confirmed, they now appear to be looking at a defensive end to add into their line rotation and the Colts' Jamaal Anderson, another former first-round pick, was in here on Friday.

Dreessen scored a huge touchdown against the Bengals for the Texans at Paul Brown Stadium back in December, but he's got the blocking skills the team covets to complement Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals love the experience Donald Lee gave them in that role last season, but Dreessen is just 28 and, like Wharton, comes out of a highly-successful running game.

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