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Safety in Numbers: Bucs Snare Pats' Wilson

Tampa Bay's most recent addition through free agency is veteran S Eugene Wilson, who started 55 games over the past five seasons with New England and helped the Patriots win a pair of championship rings


S Eugene Wilson started 55 games over the last five years in New England and won a pair of Super Bowl rings

The first two weeks of free agency brought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers four new players on defense – three linebackers and one end. As the third week of the NFL's open market unfolds, the third level of defense has received some help, too.

On Monday the Buccaneers announced the signing of sixth-year veteran safety Eugene Wilson, an unrestricted free agent and a member of two Super Bowl championship squads in New England. Though reports of an impending deal between Tampa Bay and Wilson surfaced late last week, the contract was not finalized until Monday. As is team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The 5-10, 195-pound Wilson spent his first five seasons with the Patriots after being drafted early in the second round (36th overall) in 2003. He stepped immediately into the starting lineup at free safety as a rookie and helped New England capture league titles in his first two seasons. A very versatile defender, he has also started at cornerback for the Patriots for a portion of the 2004 season.

In all, Wilson played in 62 games over five seasons in New England, starting 55. He also logged eight playoff starts during that span. His career totals include 252 tackles, 10 interceptions, 28 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 13 kick-coverage stops. From 2003-05, Wilson led all Patriots with nine interceptions, including four in each of his first two campaigns.

After starting 45 of a possible 48 regular-season games during his first three seasons in the league, Wilson was hit by hamstring and groin injuries in 2006 and was limited to just four games and four starts. He returned to the lineup to open the 2007 campaign and eventually saw action in 11 games, with six starts at free safety. Wilson contributed 33 tackles, one interception, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery in '07, helping the Patriots become the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 during the regular season. He returned his one interception five yards for a touchdown against the New York Jets in Week 15.

As a rookie, Wilson was named to the All-Rookie Team and the USA Today All-Joe Team. The following year, put the second-year safety on its All-Pro Team. The 2004 campaign ranks as his most productive, as he posted career highs in tackles (67), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (2) and tied his career high with four interceptions.

The Patriots tabbed Wilson with the fourth pick of the second round in 2003 after he had finished a prolific career at Illinois. A three-year starter for the Illini, he finished with 176 tackles, 11 interceptions and an amazing 60 passes defensed, 34 more than the school's previous career record. The 27-year-old Wilson hails from Merrillville, Indiana.

The Buccaneers have added 11 players from other teams in the first 15 days of free agency (including one via trade) and have given a significant boost to their defensive depth. In addition to Wilson, the Bucs have also signed defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson and linebackers Teddy Lehman, Matt McCoy and Leon Joe. The rest of the signees have been offensive players: center Jeff Faine, quarterback Brian Griese (via trade), running back Warrick Dunn, wide receiver Antonio Bryant and tight ends Ben Troupe and John Gilmore.

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