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Bengals Still Interested In Safety Reggie Nelson

The reigning NFL co-interceptions leader hasn't been picked off yet by another team, leaving the door open for a return to the Bengals.

We've been speculating on a Bengals return for unrestricted free-agent safety Reggie Nelson, who remains without a new contract as the free-agent signing period concludes its second week. The idea has some traction in the front office, according to the team's official web site. And Nelson isn't the only player the team has zeroed in on.

Speaking in Boca Raton, Florida, at the NFL owners meetings, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told Bengals.com that Nelson, 32, is still an option in the secondary. The coach said re-signing Nelson and signing a veteran receiver such as former Patriot Brandon La Fell still appear to be options, wrote Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com.

La Fell has reportedly made a visit to Cincinnati.

Nelson, who turns 33 on Sept. 21, could be a bargain for his next team, or a bust. He's likely to be a bargain if he re-signs with Cincinnati. One line of thought has speculated that Nelson, who tied for the 2015 NFL lead with eight interceptions, is viewing this as a last chance at a big pay day that could make him chase the money. Nelson has said that he "would love" to re-sign with the Bengals, and it's been a mutual feeling. But the dollars have to be right for both sides.

Among the teams that have reportedly shown interest in Nelson include the Washington Redskins. Nelson played in Cincinnati while Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was Bengals offensive coordinator. Nelson would represent an upgrade to Washington's safety group. ESPN has reported that the Atlanta Falcons have some interest in Nelson. The Tennessee Titans also appear to be interested in the veteran safety, who could continue his late-career surge because his play of late belies his age.

But, with 2013 third-round draft pick Shawn Williams looking for a bigger Bengals role and safety George Iloka and cornerback Adam Jones back in the fold as free-agent re-signings, it wasn't necessarily looking good for Nelson's return to the Bengals, who also added free-agent safety Taylor Mays, though the move has yet to be made official by the team. This latest note from Hobson, who is plugged into the Bengals and following the team in Florida, suggests the two sides may not be far apart as they work toward a new deal for Nelson.

A report from ESPN echoed the same sentiment but "in any situation both parties have to agree to agree," coach Lewis said, "and we just haven't agreed to agree with Reggie yet." ESPN's Coley Harvey also wrote: "Pushed about whether that meant the free-agent defensive back was still an option to re-sign, Lewis balked before adding: "As far as I know it is. But that's not my responsibility."

Nelson earned his first career Pro Bowl berth in 2015 but an injury kept him from playing in the NFL all-star game. He's also been a tackling force, ranking fourth on the Bengals last season with 72. Nelson added two fumble recoveries in 2015, which led the team. He ranked second in passes defensed with 14. He ranked second with 92 tackles in 2014 and led the team with four interceptions, including a key pick in the playoff-clinching home win against Denver.

Nelson has 30 career interceptions, 23 with the Bengals. He began the 2015 season tied for ninth on Cincinnati's all-time list with 15. Among the eight this past season were three against the Steelers, two on Nov. 1 at Pittsburgh. If he remains a Bengal, he'll enter 2016 alone in sixth place, just one behind Leon Hall, fifth-all-time with 24. Nelson has one Bengals pick for a touchdown, a 75-yarder in 2011 at Seattle.


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