Source: Texans signed Steven Nelson to upgraded deal

Texans veteran cornerback Steven Nelson has signed an upgraded contract that raises his total maximum compensation to $6.5 million, up from a previously scheduled $4.5 million this season, according to a league source.

Nelson, 30, had been seeking an adjustment to his contract after a strong season last year and had been absent from the majority of the offseason program before reporting to a mandatory minicamp and the training camp. Nelson has delivered a strong performance at training camp, including a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Backpedaling, breaking on the football and applying tight coverage against wide receivers, Nelson returned to his natural element at practice at the start of camp as he lined up with the starters.

The veteran starting cornerback officially reported for training camp, a tradition he’s been following for nine seasons for the Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. This wasn’t a routine offseason for the Georgia native, though.

Nelson was previously in a contract dispute with the Texans and didn’t attend any of the voluntary portion of the offseason before attending a mandatory minicamp. And Nelson famously posted a photograph of a blue vest, Texans general manager Nick Caserio’s trademark outfit, on his official Instagram account and said someone who wears a vest every day of the week can’t be trusted.

Although conventional wisdom suggested that perhaps Nelson and the Texans miht part ways, instead he’s back with the team and running with the first-team defense and, now, signed to an upgraded contract . Caserio and coach DeMeco Ryans held dialogue with Nelson about his contractual situation. He was previously tied for the 40th highest paid cornerback this year in terms of average per year in the NFL, and now he has gotten a raise.

Despite the public acrimony, there wasn’t any change in Nelson’s status on the field. And Ryans called him a valued member of the defense while Caserio took a lighthearted approach in his first comment about the vest post at the start of training camp.

“Not really going to comment on the discussions we’ve had, we’ve had constructive dialogue with Steven,” Caserio said at the start of training camp. “Respect Steven. I know he doesn’t like my wardrobe selection (smiled), that’s okay. Steven is here, he’s ready to go. We’ll see how it goes here in training camp..

“Yeah, I’m not really going to comment on anything. I think a lot of these times sometimes it’s best to have a one-on-one discussion and dialogue, conversation. Better handled face to face. Steven has been in this league for a long time. He’s been a good player. DeMeco and I have maintained constructive discussions with him and his representatives. Take it one day at a time and see how that goes.”

Nelson previously signed a two-year contract with a maximum value of $10 million that includes $4.5 million guaranteed with a $3.5 million base salary this year with $750,000 of his salary guaranteed along with an additional $1 million in per-game active roster bonuses and $500,000 in incentives available based on playing time. Nelson was previously tied with Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis with a $4.5 million annual average compensation ranking him 40th in the NFL among all cornerbacks. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Heading into his ninth season, Nelson allowed just 9.9 yards per reception for his lowest in the past five seasons last year with an 80.5 opposing passer rating, 253 air yards for his lowest in the past five seasons, and 114 yards after the catch for his lowest total in the past three seasons. The Texans’ defense improved to 10th in passing defense from 23rd in 2021 with the arrival of Nelson and rookie corner Derek Stingley Jr. as new starters.

The former Chiefs third-round draft pick from Oregon State recorded 52 tackles with one interception and one sack in 16 starts. He played 94 percent of the defensive snaps and allowed 37 completions on 62 targets for 367 yards, and a 59.7 completion percentage with two touchdowns surrendered.

“It’s great to have Steve here,” Ryans said. “Great presence. He’s a worker. I’m excited to work with Steven. Think he’s going to be a really important piece to what we’re doing. Thankful to have him here.”

Nelson surrendered a 78.3 passer rating against him, ranking 29th in the NFL in that category. He was 20th in coverage snaps per catch rankings.

“Anytime you have a guy like Steve who has played in a bunch of different systems we’ve got to get him in here, and once he’s in here then get him caught up to speed,” said Cory Undlin, Texans defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach. “It’s only going to help. I like that group a lot.”

“He’s played in similar schemes to this,” Texans cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso said. “I don’t see there being much of a learning curve for him. I’m excited to get him back in here. I thought he was competitive. I thought he made a lot of plays on the ball.”

Nelson, who has recorded 393 career tackles, 66 pass deflections, four fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles, is encouraged by how his first season in Houston went.

“I’m feeling really good. I played really good,” Nelson said in April prior to the NFL draft. “I exceeded expectations coming in and making plays from the first day, just being resilient and having my head down and doing whatever is asked of me and being able to succeed. I think I played really well, and I have something to piggyback on this year.”

Nelson is looking for more interceptions after picking off the ninth pass of his career last season in a loss to the Tennessee Titans.

“That’s always our goal is to get as many turnovers as I can,” Nelson said. “Sometimes that doesn’t happen. If you can limit the catch and yardage ratio, that’s huge. The stats might not be there always, but if you look into the analytics it’s all there.”

Positive change is afoot with the Texans, who are coming off a 3-13-1 season that cost coach Lovie Smith his job.

Smith was replaced by arguably the most sought after coach from the hiring cycle: Ryans, a former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year as the architect of the NFL’s top-ranked defense with the San Francisco 49ers.

“That’s awesome and I’m really ecstatic to have him here,” Nelson said. “As a former player from Houston, he kind of understands the ins and outs of a player day to day, and he comes from a winning background. The players, we’re excited to play for him and get this thing rolling.”

The Texans retained Vasso, Nelson’s position coach from last season.

“Absolutely, Dino is a great coach,” Nelson said. “I’ve known him since my rookie year in Kansas City. Seeing his growth as a coach is really good.”

As one of the elder statesmen in the secondary, Nelson embraces a mentoring role with second-year cornerback Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre.

“It means a lot, man, to kind of be a helping hand to those guys and reach back and bring somebody else with me,” Nelson said. “I’m always an open book when it comes to the younger guys and their improvement and success. I’ve always shared with them and give them a different perspective.

“I think players do a good job of relating to the older guys who have done it at a high level. Those guys have a lot of respect for me, the way I carry out my business, going 100% every day and leading by example.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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