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Bears sign Wootton, release Basanez

The Bears signed a former Northwestern player and released another Wednesday.

The team signed ex-Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton, a fourth-round pick, to a four-year deal. The announcement makes third-round safety Major Wright and sixth-round quarterback Dan LeFevour the only unsigned rookies heading into this weekend’s mandatory minicamp at the team’s practice facility.

To make room for him on the roster, ex-Wildcat quarterback Brett Basanez was released.

The Bears considered Wootton a value pick when the was still available 109 overall. He was projected by many to be a first-round pick before suffering a serious knee injury in the 2008 Alamo Bowl. On Monday, Mike Mulligan of the Sun-Times also reported that at least three NFL teams had downgraded Wootton not only because of a knee injury but because of a neck injury suffered during his freshman year. Tommie Harris and Chris Williams are two other recent draftees that were selected despite medical concerns that caused other general managers to downgrade them.

If Wootton can stay healthy, he could be a force. He started 49 of 53 games for the Wildcats and finished his collegiate career with 19.5 sacks and 38 tackles for a loss, including five in the last five games of his senior year. He also had sacks in four of those games and blocked four kicks in three years.

Basanez spent the first 15 games on the practice squad last season before being activated for the season finale against the Lions. He did not play in the game. He was originally signed by the Panthers as a free agent in 2006. He appeared in one game that season, completing six of 11 passes for 56 yards and one interception. He never took a snap in a regular-season game for the Bears.