The Arizona Cardinals released Adrian Wilson on Friday, bringing an end to the hard-hitting, five-time Pro Bowl strong safety's 12 seasons with the team.
Wilson, who had been the longest-tenured player on the team, took a pay cut to stay with the Cardinals before last season. But he knew as it was winding down that it would be his final one in the desert, especially when Rashad Johnson took a big chunk of his playing time.
Wilson, one of six NFL players with 25 interceptions and 25 sacks, made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and every year from 2008 through 2011. He had 27 interceptions and 25 ½ sacks, including eight in 2005, which were the most ever by a defensive back.
The 33-year-old safety played in 181 games with Arizona, fifth-most in team history, and was a team captain five times, including last season.
Friday's move clears about $3 million in salary cap space.
"In every franchise, there is a select group of players whose contributions earn them iconic status and for us, Adrian Wilson will always be one of those players," Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said in a statement released by the team. "He joined us at a key time in our organization's evolution and helped lead us into a new era. We will always be grateful for that and look forward to the day when he's placed in the Ring of Honor at University of Phoenix Stadium alongside the other all-time great Cardinals."
Cardinals newly-promoted general manager Steve Keim recalled meeting Wilson when the player was a 17-year-old freshman at North Carolina State.
"It was obvious even then that his infectious smile and imposing stature could make him a star," Keim said. "His disruptive style meant opponents always had to know where No. 24 lined up and the statistics illustrate all that he accomplished through his play on the field. Just as impressive, though, has been the leadership, discipline and determination he brought day in and day out, year in and year out."
Arizona selected Wilson in the third round of the 2001 draft.
Scheduled to become a free agent after the 2004 season, he signed a five-year extension, then signed another five-year deal in 2009. Wilson reworked that deal before the start of last season when he knew he would be in danger of being cut for salary cap reasons.
He issued a statement through his Instagram account.
"It's been an honour and a pleasure Cardinal fans. 12 years of heart and dedication and loyalty," Wilson wrote. "1 day we'll celebrate the No. 24 together."
He signed it "24."