Donovan Wilson was considered one of the Cowboys’ top priorities heading into the free agent period. After a quiet start to the frenzy yesterday, they have retained the safety on a three-year deal worth up to $24MM (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network). $13.5MM in compensation across the first two years is fully guaranteed.
The 28-year-old had been expected to hit the open market, after little progress had recently been made concerning contract talks. That pointed to Wilson, like fellow notable free-agents-to-be Dalton Schultz and Leighton Vander Esch, fielding offers from outside teams and quite possibly pricing themselves out of Dallas. Instead, Wilson will remain in place as a key member of the team’s safety group.
Wilson saw a major increase in his snap share in 2020 compared to his rookie year, but his playing time dropped the following season. He was utilized on 84% of defensive plays in 2022, though, allowing him to put together the most productive season of his career. The former sixth-rounder racked up 101 tackles, five sacks, an interception and a pair of forced fumbles while starting every regular season and playoff game.
The Cowboys used Wilson, along with fellow safeties Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker, on a near-permanent basis in 2022. That made keeping the trio intact a key priority for a defense which enjoyed plenty of success in the secondary. Each of the latter two have one year remaining on their current deals, so this news means continuity will be ensured for at least the 2023 season on the backend.
Wilson was set to be one of several members of this year’s safety class which was relatively unheralded after Jessie Bates. His AAV, along with two years’ worth of guaranteed money, speaks to how highly valued he is on the Cowboys’ part, and the potential market remaining for other pending free agents at the position. In any case, Wilson has a pact in place which will comfortably exceed his career earnings in each year, and allow the Cowboys to maintain a strong safety corps.