2014 free-agent countdown
20. Chris Banjo, safety
19. Seneca Wallace, quarterback
18. Kahlil Bell, running back
17. Robert Francois, inside linebacker
16. Marshall Newhouse, offensive lineman
15. C.J. Wilson, defensive lineman
Sometimes life just isn't fair in the NFL.
How else can you rationalize C.J. Wilson, coming off his most productive NFL season and arguably his best training camp, being confined to the sidelines for most of 2013 season?
There was the high-ankle sprain that took him out for a month, but even before his late-season injury, Wilson’s playing time was curtailed after losing his starting spot to a returning Johnny Jolly in the base 3-4 defense.
Wilson, 26, played a mere 108 snaps in eight games, but kept prospective. Since his arrival as a seventh-round pick in 2010, the 6-foot-3, 306-pound defensive lineman viewed himself as a placeholder for Jolly.
If Jolly hadn’t been suspended for three years for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Wilson probably wouldn’t have had the chance to play in 31 games during his first two NFL seasons.
“You go from playing a lot to not even not just starting, but not even playing or dressing period on game day. That's a humble route to do,” said Wilson in December. “I thank God he gave me patience and I knew that was my role so far this year because (Johnny) Jolly before he left, he was a starter. He was producing great for the team, so I always felt like I was the man until Jolly got back.
“It's a humble route. It sucks, but it's just the cards I've been dealt this year.”
So Wilson takes the eight tackles he recorded as a run-stopping defensive end into free agency, along with the entire starting base defensive line of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Jolly.
With Pickett now 34, Jolly’s future clouded due to a neck injury and Raji seemingly prepared to test the market, there’s a chance the Packers will need C.J. Wilson more next season than they did in 2013.
The Packers have only one player, rookie Josh Boyd, under contract listed as at least 310 pounds. In a defense dependent on stopping the run, that’s an alarming stat.
Wilson doesn't possess the natural athleticism of Raji, Pickett or Jolly, but he's a scrapper and the most proven run-stuffer outside of the starting three. He's also come with a much lower price tag.
Meanwhile, Wilson is remaining patient, much like his approach during a trying season.
Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media is counting down the top 20 unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.
No. 15 C.J. Wilson, fourth-year defensive lineman
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: 108 total (107 defensive, 1 special teams).
The stats: 8 tackles in 8 games.
The 2013 salary: $635,250.
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