Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, one of the last premium players remaining in the free agent market but also a potential gamble given his recent injury history, reached a contract agreement on Wednesday evening with the Green Bay Packers, league sources confirmed.
The agreement is a seven-year deal that can be worth as much as $52 million, ESPN.com's Michael Smith reports. Woodson will make $10.5 million in the first year of the deal and $18 million over the first three years. Woodson will also receive a $3 million bonus if he is selected to the Pro Bowl in two of the first three years of the contract.
Notable is that the agreement came one day after quarterback Brett Favre, who urged Packers executives to make some high-profile additions to the roster in the offseason, apprised Green Bay officials that he will return for a 16th season in 2006. It is not believed that Favre's decision was based on any inkling that the Packers were about to land Woodson.
Woodson chose the Packers over the Tampa Bay Bucs, essentially the only other team that demonstrated legitimate interest in him since he became an unrestricted free agent last month. Woodson, 29, had played his entire eight-year career with the Oakland Raiders, who took him in the first round of the 1998 draft.
Oakland made no attempt to re-sign Woodson.
In terms of name value, Woodson is clearly the Packers' most significant offseason addition. Whether his game still lives up to Woodson's name, however, is questionable, at least based on the last two seasons.
The former University of Michigan star and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner was designated by the Raiders as a franchise player each of the last two seasons. But Woodson suffered injuries in both of those seasons, finished each year on injured reserve, and appeared in just 19 games.
In fact, Woodson, sidelined by knee and hip injuries in 2004 and by a broken leg in 2005, has not played a full 16-game schedule since 2001. He suffered the broken leg in a game against Buffalo last Oct. 23, and made just six appearances, a career low.
The injuries were costly to the Raiders on the field but also off it. With the two consecutive franchise designations, Woodson earned a total of $19.32 million in 2004-2005. The return on that pricey investment: Just 103 tackles, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed.
For his career, Woodson has played in 106 games and registered 456 tackles, 17 interceptions, 66 passes defensed, 5½ sacks, 14 forced fumbles and five recoveries. In the last five seasons, however, Woodson has recorded more than one interception just one time, in 2003, when he had three. He has never posted more than five interceptions in a season and his career best came in his rookie campaign of 1998, when he was the fourth overall player chosen in the draft.
His supporters used to suggest, with some justification, that Woodson's interception numbers were never impressive because most opposing quarterbacks rarely tested him. Indeed, for the first half of his career, Woodson was one of the top cover defenders in the league. But there are skeptics now, particularly given his recent injuries, who feel he will never perform up to his prior Pro Bowl level.
Tampa Bay had planned to use Woodson at safety had the Bucs landed him. The Bucs were familiar with Woodson because general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden held the same positions in Oakland for part of his tenure there. Tampa Bay officials had suggested, though, that they would not overspend to add Woodson to their secondary.
It is believed Woodson will remain at cornerback with the Packers and start opposite Al Harris, allowing the Green Bay coaches to move 2004 first-round pick Ahmad Carroll to the nickel cornerback spot.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.