The Cleveland Browns are coming off a disappointing campaign, but one of the bright spots from the 6-10 season was the emergence of Mack Wilson as a starting linebacker.
Wilson was forced into action after an injury to veteran Christian Kirksey, and the fifth-round pick out of Alabama performed admirably. In 14 starts, Wilson racked up 82 total tackles to go with an interception and sack. While there were some rookie moments, Wilson’s athletic versatility playing next to Joe Schobert established him as a key piece of the defense going forward.
Thanks to his stellar play he earned $415,296 in performance-based pay from the NFL. That was the second-highest number, behind only Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward, who received $428,335.
The performance-based pay pool is meant to reward players whose playing time is disproportionate to their salary. Wilson’s base salary as a fifth-round pick paid him $495,000, so he almost doubled that with is bonus.
Wilson made the most of his opportunity after falling in the draft.
“There’s not too many rookie linebackers starting around the league, unless they were drafted in the first and second rounds,” Wilson said during the season. “I think about (falling to Round 5) all the time.
“But I have a job to do. I’ve got to focus on trying to keep my job. My mind is focused on the future … how I can get better, what I can do to make more money down the line.”
Mack Wilson: Bank Account Smiling Hard
Shortly after it was announced, Wilson reacted to the bonus money on Twitter.
“My bank account smiling real hard rn (right now),” Wilson tweeted Thursday.
Wilson’s teammate Greedy Williams — who was taken in the same draft — responded to Wilson saying: “Don’t forget about us broke people.” Williams was a second-round pick and also saw his fair share of playing time, starting 12 games.
Wilson responded, saying: “Man pls. Lemme hold some big money.”
Sheldrick Redwine, another member of last year’s rookie class, also ribbed Wilson.
“But can’t gimme my 30,” Redwine wrote in response to Wilson.
Mack Wilson Expected to Play Larger Role in Defense
The torch was passed to Wilson earlier in the week from Kirksey, who was released by the team after dealing with injuries the past two seasons.
“Kirko was my OG. Y’all wouldn’t understand everywhere I was on the practice field and the games he was watching me. Always corrected me in a positive way,” Wilson wrote. “Thank you so much for taking me under your wings. Love forever big bro.”
Kirksey responded to Mack, saying: “Lil bro! Its forever love with me. Its your time now bro! Be great like I know you will! The sky is the limit for you. The torch is passed!! Love u bro.”
Kirksey was under contract for two more years at $7.75 million in 2020 and $8.25 million in 2021. The Browns tried to restructure the deal, but couldn’t come to an agreement, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
Veteran Joe Schobert is also reportedly destined for a new team in free agency. Schobert made 133 tackles last season, leading the Browns. He also snagged four interceptions and collected a pair of sacks. It was his third season in a row with triple-digit tackles, totaling 104 in 2018 and 144 during a Pro Bowl campaign in 2017.