KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs added one free agent while losing another Tuesday afternoon, with the club agreeing to terms with Dallas Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson while cornerback Steven Nelson departs for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wilson and the Chiefs agreed on a two-year deal. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed. Nelson and the Steelers reportedly reached terms on a three-year contract worth $25.5 million. The new contracts cannot be executed until after the beginning of the new league year at 3 p.m. central time Wednesday.
The Cowboys selected Wilson in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft from Minnesota. He proved reliable in Dallas, playing all 64 regular season games and three playoff games for the team in four seasons. Wilson started 22 games over the past three seasons, taking part in 28 percent of the team's defensive snaps this past season. He was a four-phase player on special teams, taking 345 snaps.
The Chiefs currently project Wilson as the starter at strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 defensive scheme of Steve Spagnuolo. He played a similar role for the Cowboys, often leaving the field in nickel and other substitution packages. The Chiefs expect his former Cowboys teammate Anthony Hitchens to play on the weak side with Reggie Ragland at middle linebacker. Dorian O'Daniel should also compete for playing time, particularly in specific packages.
Wilson picked up a career-best 37 tackles last season along with a sack and a forced fumble. He has 103 combined tackles including nine for a loss with eight quarterback hits in his career.
Wilson was arrested in July 2017 in Frisco, Texas on aggravated assault charges stemming from a road rage incident. He was later cleared of all charges when a grand jury declined to indict him.
Nelson came to Kansas City as a third-round selection in 2015 from Oregon State. After seeing limited time as a rookie, Nelson stepped in as a starter in 2016 on the right side opposite Marcus Peters and moving into the slot in nickel packages. The addition of Kendall Fuller in 2017 allowed Nelson to spend his time exclusively at right corner, where he picked up a career-high 68 tackles and the first four interceptions of his career. Nelson graded out as the No. 33 corner in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus.
The departure of Nelson leaves Fuller and Charvarius Ward as the projected starters for now with Tremon Smith as a potential nickel back. The Chiefs also return D'Montre Wade from last season's practice squad and Step Durham from injured reserve. The club also recently signed free agents Chris Cooper and Dontae Johnson.
General manager Brett Veach recently said he plans to continue pouring resources into the cornerback position both during free agency and the upcoming NFL draft.