Cowboys Sign Veteran Super Bowl Champ Attempting Comeback

Since we last saw former fourth-round draft pick Damien Wilson in a Dallas Cowboys uniform, he’s had a pretty wild ride. Wilson was a Cowboys employee from 2015-18, and did not miss a game in those four seasons, starting 22 games and appearing in 64. He was not brought back after his rookie contract, though, and moved on to Kansas City for two seasons, where he started all 30 games he appeared in and helped the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win in 2019.

His last three years? Well, he signed with the Jaguars in 2021, and the team went 3-14. Then he moved on to Carolina, and the Panthers went 7-10, firing their coach midseason. Last year, at age 30, Wilson went the entire season without and NFL snap to his credit. He was with the Dallas practice squad.

But now Wilson is packing up all those highs and lows and hoping to make a triumphant comeback. He returning to the Cowboys on an active-roster contract, having signed on to join a linebacking crew that was devoid of depth last season following the injury to Leighton Vander Esch and had to use hybrid safety Markquese Bell next to Damone Clark.

Damien Wilson on a Veteran Minimum Contract

Dallas Morning News beat reporter Michael Gehlken noted on Twitter/X that Wilson was signed on Monday using a veteran’s benefit, which allows Wilson to sign for the minimum amount due an eight-year veteran ($1.2 million, plus a $167K signing bonus) but only count against the cap as a two-year veteran, which means his hit will be $1.15 million ($985K plus $167K).

Gehlken reported: “Cowboys signed LB Damien Wilson today to a one-year deal with the veteran salary benefit structure, a person familiar with situation said. More depth at linebacker. Wilson spent end of last season on team’s practice squad.”

Cowboys signed LB Damien Wilson today to a one-year deal with the veteran salary benefit structure, a person familiar with situation said. More depth at linebacker. Wilson spent end of last season on team’s practice squad.

— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) April 29, 2024

There is some irony, of course, to the return of Wilson to the Cowboys’ stable of linebackers. That’s because, when he left the team in 2019 to sign with the Chiefs, he was a high-value player, but the Cowboys were too deep at linebacker to warrant keeping him around. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were ensconced as starters and Sean Lee was still part of the rotation.

The Kansas City deal for Wilson was a bargain—the Chiefs got a starter for two years and $5.75 million.

Cowboys Linebacker Corps in Need of Help

Now, Wilson is returning to a much different situation in Dallas. Vander Esch was forced to retire because of a persistent neck injury that he hurt again in Week 5 of this season. Smith was outstanding for several seasons in Dallas, but had trouble staying healthy, too, and was released.

The Cowboys drafted DeMarvion Overshown last year in the third round and expected him to be a rookie contributor, but a torn ACL knocked him out for the season. He should be back in action this year, and the hope is that he can work his way into the team’s rotation in the middle.

The Cowboys also used a third-round pick on Marist Liufau in this year’s draft, passing on a chance to pick a running back. The hope is that Liufau will contribute, too.

The main source of optimism for the linebacker crew in Dallas, though, is the signing of Eric Kendricks, who was the team’s only outside addition for much of the offseason. Kendricks was a team captain with the Chargers, who played for new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in Minnesota.

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