Updates from Tuesday, June 24
Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 reported the terms of Adrian Wilson's deal with the Bears:
Adrian Wilson base salary with the #Bears is 955K. Wilson will wear #44 in Chicago. (Kelvin Hayden #24)— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) June 24, 2014
When longtime Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson signed with the New England Patriots last offseason, it looked like a perfect fit for him to ride off into the sunset. One lost season and career-threatening injury later, and Wilson will attempt to write his last NFL chapter in the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears announced Monday that they have agreed to free-agent contracts with Wilson and former Raiders tight end Jeron Mastrud:
#Bears have signed 5-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and TE Jeron Mastrud.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 23, 2014
Terms of the deals were not immediately made available, though it's unlikely Wilson or Mastrud received much in the way of guarantees. Given that Chicago made its moves after voluntary workouts ended, it might indicate the coaching staff's pleasure (or lack thereof) in the tight end and safety positions.
Want to welcome Adrian Wilson. Looking forward to taking the field with the enforcer!— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) June 23, 2014
Wilson, 34, is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who spent his first 12 seasons as the last line of defense with the Cardinals. A third-round pick in 2001, Wilson emerged as a starter in his second season and did not relinquish that spot until his departure. He made 162 starts in total as the team's strong safety, but was released as Arizona looked to infuse youth in its secondary during the 2013 offseason.
The Patriots subsequently signed Wilson to a three-year, $5 million deal that looked savvy for both sides at the time. Bill Belichick is renowned for extending the careers of aging veterans, including Rodney Harrison at the safety spot, and Wilson desired a chance to play for a contender.
It never happened.
Wilson ruptured his Achilles in the preseason, spent all of 2013 on injured reserve and was released by the organization in April. It was only the second time Wilson had missed more than two games in a season (2007) and left many wondering whether the aging defensive playmaker would get another opportunity.
"Being out for a whole year and sitting back and watching is way tougher than what I imagined," Wilson told reporters in January prior to his release. "Now I'm really just focusing on myself, not so much the situation, just trying to get myself healthy and just ready to play."
In Chicago, Wilson faces an uphill battle if he hopes to make an impact. The Bears' depth chart at strong safety currently features four veterans, including Wilson. Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings came over in free agency after stints with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, respectively, and Craig Steltz has been with the Bears since 2008.
If the coaching staff wants to switch him to free safety, Wilson would have to compete with currently injured starter Chris Conte among others. Chicago drafted Brock Vereen, signed undrafted free agent Marcus Trice and brought in backup safety/special teams contributor Danny McCray from Dallas. Every player in the Bears' current safety rotation is younger than Wilson.
Age aside, there are also questions of effectiveness. Wilson showed signs of skill atrophy his last season in Arizona, making just 54 tackles and intercepting one pass—the former statistic being his lowest as a starter in a year not affected by injury. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him 47th in run stop percentage and 18th in coverage among safeties in 2012.
Couple that with his Achilles injury—debilitating for any athlete, let alone one who turns 35 in October—and Wilson may have an uphill battle making the roster. But the decade-plus of elite performance was enough for the Bears to at least give him a look heading into training camp.
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