Safety Adrian Wilson addresses the media Tuesday.
FLAGSTAFF – It was both an extension and a salary cut for Adrian Wilson, the new deal he signed Monday that moved the end of his contract from 2013 to 2105, but it was also a statement about who the Pro Bowl safety considers himself these days.
Wilson wasn't unrealistic, knowing the lofty salaries of his previous contract for 2012 and 2013 were high and would be addressed. He also knew he didn't want to be anything but a Cardinal.
"Money comes and goes," Wilson said, after arriving at Northern Arizona University for training camp. "I'm in it for the legacy."
That's always been important to Wilson, the need to play his entire career with the Cardinals and to one day go into the franchise's Ring of Honor. The team approached him and his agent "a couple weeks ago" when Wilson was on vacation in Europe about re-doing his deal. Wilson said he anticipated something might happen – "The first three years of my deal, I hit all my escalators," he said – so he dealt with the business of football.
Wilson's salary will be about $1.5 million this season, with a $1.5 million signing bonus, according to the Arizona Republic. That's lower than the $6.5M salary he was originally scheduled to receive. His original salary cap number was $7.5M, which has been significantly reduced.
Wilson, who will turn 33 during the season, knew a new contract would add salary cap room for the Cardinals. That was one of the reasons he was willing to do it, to send a message to young players like cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Daryl Washington that a good thing is being built and they should want to stick around.
"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 said.
"There are guys who need to be a Cardinal, need to be a Cardinal for life," Wilson added.
But it's more than that to the five-time Pro Bowler, who played well the second half of last season after learning the new defensive scheme and earning another trip to Hawaii.
"I didn't want to be a cap casualty and at the same time, I didn't want to play for another team," said Wilson, beginning his 12th season. "I can't put my heart into another team like I have this team. I knew that going in and I was just being honest with myself."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt called it an "unselfish move" and mentioned that with successful teams, they often have players that are willing to put the team first.
"It gives us flexibility with the cap and a chance to get our team better," Whisenhunt said. "It's a tribute to Adrian and him putting the team first, but that's what he has done, and that's why he's such a good leader."
Incentives are built into the contract to allow him to recoup the money he would have originally gotten, Wilson said. He brushed aside the thought he'd consider it a paycut.
"It is what it is," Wilson said. "I'm not mad about it. That's just business. I can earn that money back and then some if I go out and play Adrian Wilson football. I expect to do that."
Someday, Wilson hopes to have a role in the organization (although he hesitated with the idea of a 9-to-5 job, drawing laughs) and knows he is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. "Time waits for nobody," he acknowledged, but insisted he still felt like he was in great shape and is prepared to play.
Wilson knows his place in both the franchise history and in league history for certain statistical milestones, such as games played, career interceptions and a remaining goal of reaching the 30-sack/30-interception club (he has 22½ and 26, respectively.)
He certainly hadn't lost his edge. Wilson was sporting a baseball cap that said "mayhem," something he has prided himself on creating on defense over the years. He was asked if the message was intentional.
"I'm doing my best villain routine right now," Wilson said with a grin. "Hopefully I can go out there, make some plays and help this team win."