Strong safety Adrian Wilson has been selected to the last four Pro Bowls and played as well in the latter half of the 2011 season as any time in his 10-year career.
Oh, and he played 16 games last season despite suffering a torn biceps tendon early in training camp.
Yet, at the start of this training camp, Wilson agreed to a new four-year deal that essentially cuts his salary by $10 million over this season and next.
The contract was extended by two seasons, sure, but unless Wilson hits several incentive clauses, he'll make considerably less than he would have under his own deal.
So why was Wilson willing to take the cut? First, he wants to finish his career as a Cardinal. He has played more seasons and in more games as an Arizona Cardinal than any other player.
"I didn't want to be a (salary) cap casualty," Wilson said, "and at the same time, I didn't want to go out and play for another team. I can't put my heart into another team like I have this team."
Wilson's new deal saves the Cardinals cash and creates additional salary cap space. It's loaded with incentives that could allow Wilson to recoup money.
But the Cardinals didn't need the cap space. They were about $5 million under the cap before Wilson's new contract, and about $9 million or so under after his deal. Outside of linebacker Daryl Washington, they don't have many young players who are candidates for extensions. And they had plenty of room to re-sign Washington.
"I'm not mad about it," Wilson said. "That's just business. I can earn that money back and then some if I go out there and play Adrian Wilson football."
Second, Wilson thinks the Cardinals are going to be pretty good in 2012. He and the rest of his defensive teammates have bought into the system installed by coordinator Ray Horton, and that unit is expected to be the team's strength.
"I'm not in it for the money; I have enough of that," Wilson said. "I just want to finish my career here and hopefully the young guys here now understand why I am doing it, and put them in a better situation down the road."
Wilson had some leverage and could have taken the risk of saying no to the team's proposal. He is coming off an excellent season, and there is no heir apparent on the roster. The Cardinals would have received heavy criticism from media and fans had they released Wilson, even though he turns 33 this fall.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt praised Wilson for his unselfishness and leadership skills.
"If you look at a lot of successful teams in the league, they have players that put the team first," Whisenhunt said. "This is an unselfish move by Adrian. It gives us flexibility with the cap, as well as a chance to get our team better. It means a lot."
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.