LSU is “finalizing” a deal to make New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen the team’s new defensive coordinator, according to Jane Slater of NFL Network. Nielsen, a Saints assistant since 2017, reportedly informed coach Sean Payton of the transition on Monday following Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFC Divisional round.
The deal may not happen without a hitch, though. While Slater reported that a deal was close to done, language in Nielsen’s contract with the Saints could make things difficult. Namely, there is a dispute on whether the language of Nielsen’s contract allows him to move to the college ranks. As such, the Saints reportedly are not signing off on the move.
The Tigers are searching for a new defensive coordinator after Orgeron let go of Bo Pelini last month as part of broader coaching staff changes. One year after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Tigers finished 5-5 while allowing nearly 35 points per game — tied for 10th in the SEC. LSU was particularly abysmal against the pass, allowing an SEC-worst 323 yards through the air per game.
Nielsen spent most of his coaching career in college with ties to Ed Orgeron as a player at USC from 1998-2001 and again at Ole Miss from 2005-07. He was a one-time Broyles Award candidate for best assistant coach during his last college stop at NC State. This past year, the Saints finished with a top-five defense in yards per game allowed and against the run.