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Cardinals choose Panthers DC Steve Wilks as new coach

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals namedCarolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks their next head coach on Monday.

The team said that Wilks agreed to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year.

The move ends Arizona's search exactly three weeks after it began when former coach Bruce Arians retired on Jan. 1.

Wilks, 48, has been an NFL assistant since 2006, most recently spending the past six seasons with the Panthers. In 2017, he was their defensive coordinator after two seasons as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach.

Since 2012, Wilks' first season as Carolina's secondary coach, the Panthers were sixth in the NFL with 96 interceptions. Who was first? The Cardinals with 108.

This is the second straight year Carolina has lost its defensive coordinator. Sean McDermott was named the head coach at Buffalo last offseason and led the Bills to the playoffs in his first season. Wilks was promoted from secondary coach/assistant head coach to coordinator.

The Panthers promoted defensive line coach Eric Washington to replace Wilks as defensive coordinator.

Wilks ran a 4-3 defense in Carolina that was blitz-happy. The Panthers had the second-highest blitz rate in the NFL this season at 44.0 percent.

The Panthers were also poised to lose another coach as Wilks is expected to hire Carolina linebackers coach Al Holcomb as his defensive coordinator, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Wilks will inherit one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Patrick Peterson, who was named to his seventh Pro Bowl this season. But Wilks has experience coaching top-tier corners, having worked with Josh Norman from 2012 to 2015.

"He is my story pretty much in a coach's version," Norman told ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "That sums up what he is perfectly, and his star is about to become a contagious combustible flame for those guys. He's a leader of men: not boys, men. Trust there's a difference there, which enhances and drives them to excel; a general to whom I would follow to the end. I'm pretty sure most know this. I've been pretty adamant about him. Hell, Cardinals got a steal!"

Norman tweeted to Peterson that the Cardinals cornerback was about to go "supersonic" with Wilks as his coach.

The last time Wilks was a head coach was in 1999 at Savannah State University. Wilks will inherit a defense that finished in to the top 10 of total defense the past three seasons -- the only team other than the Denver Broncos to accomplish that feat.

However, Carolina finished in the top 10 in total defense in five of Wilks' six seasons with the Panthers. Last season, his only as the Panthers' defensive coordinator, the Panthers finished third in sacks with 50 and third in run defense, allowing 88.1 yards per game. The Panthers were the only team in the NFL in 2017 that didn't allow a 100-yard rusher, and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in a 20 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. He'll inherit a Cardinals' defense that finished in the top 10 against the run in four of the past five seasons.

Wilks played at Appalachian State from 1987 to 1991, and attended the Seattle Seahawks' training camp in 1992 before playing defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993. He began his coaching career two years later at Johnson C. Smith University in 1995.

ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.

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