Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen is staying with the New Orleans Saints after getting a promotion to assistant head coach rather than becoming the defensive coordinator at LSU, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
Nielsen has received a new three-year contract with the Saints and will replace Dan Campbell, who is expected to become head coach of the Detroit Lions, as the assistant head coach while continuing to coach the defensive line under Sean Payton, a source told ESPN.
Nielsen, who played under LSU coach Ed Orgeron and worked under Orgeron at Ole Miss, had emerged as the top candidate for the Tigers' defensive coordinator vacancy and both sides on Monday were working on a deal to finalize the hire, a source told ESPN.
Orgeron told WNXX radio on Tuesday morning that a deal had not been finalized, saying "there are still some things to work out."
A longtime college assistant at NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss and other spots, Nielsen joined the Saints in 2017 as a first-time NFL assistant. Several top college teams since have pursued him, including for defensive coordinator roles.
LSU fired defensive coordinator Bo Pelini last month after just one season. The 2019 national champions fell to 5-5 in 2020, ranked next to last in the SEC in yards allowed and gave up 34.9 points per game.
The Tigers had also pursued Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who instead chose to take the coordinator job at Notre Dame.
Nielsen has been a huge asset for the Saints since he arrived. During that span, the Saints have ranked No. 1 in the NFL in run defense (94.3 yards allowed per game) and third in sacks (187) while winning four straight NFC South titles.
He helped oversee some of defensive end Cameron Jordan's best seasons (first-team All-Pro in 2017 and second team in 2018 and 2019) while also helping to develop young linemen like tackle David Onyemata and ends Trey Hendrickson and Marcus Davenport.