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Friday, March 14, 2014

Wesley Woodyard lands four-year deal with Titans despite injury-riddled 2013

By on 3/14/2014 06:00:00 PM

The Tennessee Titans have signed former Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard to a four-year, $16 million deal, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.  Woodyard was a six-year veteran in Denver, but found himself benched in the latter part of last season due to a nagging neck injury.

Woodyard has spent his entire career in Denver, arriving as an undrafted free agent in 2008 hailing from the University of Kentucky.  With a reputation as a hard working, solid all-around good guy, he was selected as the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year at the end of last season.

Woodyard had been a team captain, either on special teams or defense, since he made his first roster slot in 2008 as an undrafted rookie in Mike Shanahan's last season with the Broncos.  He has a career 434 combined tackles, eight forced fumbles and five interceptions.  In 2012 Woodyard was the only player in the league with at least 100 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions.

Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons

A natural outside linebacker by trade, Woodyard was moved to middle linebacker in 2013 after Stewart Bradley suffered a season-ending injury during the team's preseason loss to Seattle.  At 6'1 and weighing in at 219 pounds, he was undersized and uncomfortable for the middle slot, but took on the role regardless and without hesitation. 

Last season started off extremely well for Woodyard, as he collected 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the first four weeks of 2013. In a week five 51-48 shootout win against the Dallas Cowboys, he left the game in the first half with a neck injury and did not return. 

Woodyard missed the next two games and upon returning to the field, the coaches noticed his play had suffered and the coaches didn't think he was quite the same player after that.  He was replaced by Paris Lenon in week 14 and didn't start for the rest of the season.  Woodyard finished the regular season with 84 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and one interception.

Despite his team leadership roles and his ability to move from position to position, the Broncos parted ways with the 27 year-old earlier this week.  Many teams expressed interest in Woodyard, as he adds versatility and is young enough to bounce back from his injury. 

He decided to go with Tennessee, joining a solid Titans linebacking corps that includes outside linebackers Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown
Wesley is a player who has experience playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 systems, and in our new scheme he fits as one of the inside linebackers," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "He is smart and fast. He also brings the leadership qualities and intangibles that we look for in a player, which makes him a good fit for us

Landing a multi-year contract and having the experience of a team captain role since his rookie year, Woodyard has found a new home that needs him.  And just like that, the second chapter of his NFL career begins.

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