- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Why is it so big? Cincinnati pointed to Nelson as its top priority in free agency and didn't lose him in a battle with the New York Jets. The Bengals also kept Nelson at a time when it would be hard to replace him (the safety position is weak in free agency and the draft) and didn't let him leave like cornerback Johnathan Joseph a year ago.
Nelson, 28, has gone from a first-round bust with Jacksonville to an coveted defensive back in Cincinnati. He was considered the second-best safety in free agency, and that's why the Jets tried to lure him there in a two-day visit.
Even though he isn't a Pro Bowl defender, Nelson made his presence known. He led the Bengals with four interceptions and ranked third in tackles. Nelson also broke up eight passes, forced two fumbles and recorded two sacks.
Keeping Nelson was a solid move considering the Bengals didn't take the easy way out and use the franchise tag on him. Although the details for Nelson's deal weren't immediately available, using a $6.2 million tag on Nelson would have been overspending for him (this wasn't a case of the Bengals being frugal).
After a slow start to free agency, the Bengals have been heating up this weekend in using the second-most salary-cap space in the NFL. Cincinnati agreed to terms with guard Travelle Wharton, cornerback Jason Allen and now Nelson.
Monday will be an important day for the Bengals, who host running backs Michael Bush and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Signing one of them would cross another item off the free-agent list for Cincinnati, which is parting ways with Cedric Benson.