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Jaguars Linked To Division Rival’s Top Remaining Free Agent

Steven Nelson is one of the best remaining cornerbacks on the free agent market, and he could sign with a longtime division rival.
Steven Nelson Free Agent

Former Houston Texans cornerback Steven Nelson is perhaps the most underrated player remaining on the free agent market. While the former third-round pick has never been a superstar, Nelson has remained a reliable starter throughout his time in the league. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the defensive back finished the 2023 season with four interceptions, 12 passes defended, 63 tackles, and a 72.6 PFF grade, good for the 29th-best mark among 127 eligible players.

C.J. Stroud was the primary catalyst behind Houston’s surprising postseason run last year, but Nelson helped shore down the secondary as a reliable CB2 opposite Derek Stingley. Now a free agent, Steven Nelson will probably leave Houston and join a new team. While every organization should have some interest, Bleacher Report believes that the Jacksonville Jaguars are the best fit.

The cornerback depth is concerning overall. They are going to get help in the slot from the safeties, but Ronald Darby has struggled with injuries before and Tyson Campbell missed six games last season. Steven Nelson is one of the most consistent corners remaining and the Jags should be familiar with him from his time in the AFC South with the Houston Texans.

Jaguars Could Sign Free Agent Steven Nelson

Following a breakout 2022, Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars were supposed to have complete control of the AFC South for years to come. However, Stroud’s emergence led to a surprise playoff absence, and how Jacksonville desperately needs to improve the roster to keep pace with a talented Texans team. As mentioned above, Jacksonville’s secondary could use some work, and Steven Nelson might be the most realistic free agent option available.

Chances are, Steven Nelson won’t sign anywhere until Stephon Gilmore finds his free agent home. The former Defensive Player of the Year is easily the best cornerback left on the market and is the top option for every team still looking for help at the position. However, once Gilmore is off the board, teams should pivot to Nelson as a reliable consolation prize. If the Jaguars can’t get him, one of these other teams should.

Potential Destinations

Kansas City Chiefs

Steven Nelson is no L’Jarius Sneed, but the free agent cornerback could adequately fill his shoes in 2024. Kansas City didn’t have the financial resources to pay both Sneed and Chris Jones, but they do have the money to sign an aging veteran like Nelson. While the longtime starter will allow more completions than Sneed, he can hold down his side of the field while complementing superstar CB1 Trent McDuffie. Additionally, Andy Reid selected Steven Nelson in 2015, so he’ll know how to get the most out of the veteran.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers tried their best to sign Stephon Gilmore. However, the two sides couldn’t agree to terms, and the Panthers could now pivot to free agent Steven Nelson. Jaycee Horn is great when healthy, but this roster still needs someone capable of starting on the other side of the field. Dave Canales will have to win games on defense, which means Nelson could be the difference in some close low-scoring matches next year.

Green Bay Packers

Jordan Love’s success jumpstarted the Packers rebuild, which means they should be in the market for a veteran free agent like Steven Nelson who can help the team win now. Jaire Alexander is still a good football player, and losing Joe Barry is addition by subtraction. However, with all that being said, talent wins football games, and the Packers need more of it in the secondary. Nelson is an ideal complementary corner who should easily justify his paycheck in an NFC North overflowing with talented wide receivers.

Los Angeles Chargers

Jim Harbaugh is trying to create an elite offense, but he’ll need to win with defense in 2024. Justin Herbert can make any offense adequate, but the complete lack of pass-catching talent ensures that the defense must carry a sizable portion of the roster. While Brandon Staley can no longer sabotage the unit, Los Angeles could use a steadying free agent like Steven Nelson in the secondary. The AFC is loaded with elite quarterbacks and receivers, and you can never have too many starting-caliber cornerbacks on the roster.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have quietly had one of the better offseasons in the league. This team is probably a year or two away from competing for the NFC West, but they could make a playoff push if their youngsters hit the ground running. While they have promising young players on offense, they could a veteran presence on defense. Steven Nelson is perfect for such a role, as the free agent would probably be the best cornerback on the team and could teach the younger players the nuances of the professional game.

Main Photo: Troy Taormina – USA Today Sports


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