UPDATE (Thursday, April 7, 10:30am) -- The Raiders signed unrestricted free agent safety Reggie Nelson, the team announced.
The Raiders signed veteran free safety Reggie Nelson to a two-year contract on Wednesday, a league source said, presently strengthening a thin position group.
Nelson reportedly signed an $8.5 million deal with $4 million in guaranteed money. Nelson can earn another $3.5 million in incentives based on interceptions and individual honors. Per the Houston Chronicle, Nelson will earn a $2.75 million base salary in 2016, with a $2 million roster bonus due April 15. He also has a $1.25 roster bonus due the third day of the 2017 league year which, per the Boston Globe, can be guaranteed if he plays 65 percent of next season's defensive snaps.
Nelson came to the East Bay for a visit starting on Monday, a league source said. He had dinner with defensive coordinator Ken Norton and defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson that evening, per an ESPN report.
Nelson toured the facility on Tuesday, but left the building without a contract. That’s normally cause for alarm, but the sides continued to work and agreed to a deal on Wednesday.
The Raiders showed cursory interest in Nelson earlier in the free-agent process, but not at the rate the 2015 Pro Bowler originally had in mind. He remained a top talent on the open market in recent weeks, and eventually found a match and an agreeable value in Oakland.
The 32-year old’s market may have been tempered by his age. He’ll be 33 shortly after the season’s start, a detriment despite a strong 2015 where he lead the league with eight interceptions. He also had 78 tackles and 14 passes defense playing center field in Cincinnati’s scheme.
He’ll play the same role in Oakland, where he’ll replace now retired Pro Bowler Charles Woodson. Nelson should be placed in the starting lineup, likely paired with Nate Allen or a draft pick.
Nelson has a history with Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. He was Jacksonville’s first-round draft pick in 2007, when Del Rio was Jaguars head coach. The pair were in central Florida for three seasons, before he moved on to the Bengals. He flourished in the Queen City, where he made great strides especially over the past three seasons.
The Bengals chose not to pursue Nelson, but the Raiders found a short-term option at a key spot. This doesn’t exclude a draftable option for a longer-term, but Nelson should shore up a perceived present weakness.
Nelson joins a free-agent class that also features cornerback Sean Smith, edge rusher Bruce Irvin and guard Kelechi Osemele.