After the 2013 season ended, Bears GM Phil Emery went on record declaring that Corey Wootton was a player who “transcened” scheme, fitting a 4-3, 3-4 or any hybrid version of either in a Bears defense looking to change more than just a few bodies.
On Thursday Wootton transcended the Bears in general, signing a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings that is set at $1.5 million but could top out at $2 million based on incentives.
Wootton has some dubious history with the Vikings. It was sack of Brett Favre in 2010 that effectively ended the legendary quarterback’s career, one of a breakout seven sacks Wootton recorded in his first year earning significant time in the starting lineup.
Where exactly Wootton fits in the Minnesota defense of new coach Mike Zimmer remains to play out. Wootton has always played as a 4-3 end with the exception of last season when he was forced to fill in at tackle after a rash of injuries in the interior. He finished with 3.5 sacks and 35 tackles but required arthroscopic hip surgery in January.
Wootton’s exit follows the departure of tackle Henry Melton, coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2013 season, for Dallas.
Wootton’s exit was clearly in the offing after the Bears signed Lamarr Houston from Oakland and Michael Young from Detroit to multi-year contracts. Those followed the stacking of rush-ends Michael Bass, Austen Lane and Trevor Scott through this offseason. It became increasingly difficult to envision where exactly Wootton would fit with a chance to be an impact contributor.
Familiar faces, new faces
As longtime Bears fixtures leave quietly (or not so quietly) for new homes, a natural thought might be that this is the last time they’ll be seen in Chicago. Hardly.
Devin Hester’s three-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday made him just the latest to go from friend to foe with the movement of a pen (and substantial interbank transfer). With free agency barely a week old, the Bears can already start some game-planning for 2014 based on knowledge of certain specific opponents:
Green Bay: Julius Peppers
Minnesota: Corey Wootton
New Orleans: None
Atlanta: Devin Hester
Tampa Bay: Josh McCown
Dallas: Henry Melton