Randle El will likely move to starter
In a move that all but eliminates any chance of Plaxico Burress returning to Pittsburgh, the Steelers have reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, ESPN.com has confirmed.
Wilson, 26, will sign a four-year, $8 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $2 million.
The four-year veteran met with Pittsburgh officials Monday and made no pretense about his desire to sign with the Steelers. The two sides got close to a deal Monday evening and then wrapped up negotiations Tuesday afternoon.
The former University of Tennessee standout, coming off a 2004 season that clearly was the most productive of his career, becomes the newest member of a Steelers wideout corps that, after seven-year veteran Hines Ward, is very young.
It is expected that three-year veteran Antwaan Randle El, utilized primarily as the No. 3 wide receiver in the past and with only eight starts on his resume, will move in the lineup to replace Burress, an unrestricted free agent destined to sign elsewhere. But none of the other six wide receivers on the Pittsburgh roster, led by restricted free agent Lee Mays, has ever logged a regular-season start.
Having started 15 games in 2004, Wilson has more starts than all the Steelers wideouts, with the exception of Ward, put together. And he is an emerging youngster, a solid route-runner with good hands and excellent work habits, who should fit well into the Pittsburgh offensive design.
Wilson had career bests in receptions (47), yards (641) and touchdowns (three) in 2004, despite playing with inexperienced San Francisco quarterbacks. Thirty-five of his catches produced first downs. Over the past two seasons, in which his playing time was markedly increased, he produced first downs on 71.9 percent of his receptions.
For his career, Wilson, a sixth-round choice in 2001, has 97 receptions for 1,203 yards and six scores in 47 appearances. He has also averaged 21.2 yards on 63 kickoff returns, with one touchdown.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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