The New York Jets were hit with some interesting, yet not-so surprising news on Thursday. According to multiple reports, Jets’ defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is “long gone” after 2017.
None of this comes as any surprise to Jets fans as Wilkerson has under performed and continually showed up late for team meetings showing poor leadership qualities. The 2011 first round pick and former pro-bowler has dramatically fallen from grace.
The fun house mentality that former head coach Rex Ryan had instilled is growing old with the current coaches and front office. Having an abundance of talented young players is leading some of the “Ryan era” players out the door at a rapid pace. It is expected to continue in the offseason. When it comes to Wilkerson, showing up twenty pounds over weight to training camp all but marked the beginning of the end, leg injury aside.
He didn’t help his case by showing up late to yet another team meeting either. Current head coach Todd Bowles benched the former standout defensive end in the first quarter of the Jets’ game against Kansas City after reportedly showing up late to a prior team meeting. This is the third time in three years that Wilkerson has been disciplined in such fashion.
The Jets have two options in moving on from the once popular “Mo” Wilkerson.
According to Spotrac:
1. 2018 salary is never fully guaranteed if the Jets cut him before the third day of the new league year. This will see the Jets taking a $9 million dead cap hit, but ultimately saving $11 million.
2. Wait until post June 1st of 2018. This would guarantee Wilkerson’s $16.7 million salary, but ultimately they would save $17 million in 2018 while eating $3 million of dead cap and another $6 million in 2019.
Basically, the total cost of removing Wilkerson from the roster is $9 million either way for general manager Mike Maccagnan. Simply stated, there is no chance Muhammad Wilkerson will be a member of the 2018 New York Jets.
What Are They Losing?
The seven-year veteran was once a supremely dominant force for the Jets. He’s seen two seasons with 10+ sacks, including a 12 sack year back in 2015. He’s also totaled five consecutive seasons (nearly six now) with 50+ combined tackles.
All of that being said, Wilkerson was once a leader of a strong-minded Jets defense. He remained a building block for many years, and the Jets were convinced they had found something special.
So did most of the league. Wilkerson is and was a scary athlete. His ability to rush opposing quarterbacks was unmatched, and his framework to hunt down players in the open space wasn’t far behind.
But the standout, highly sought-after Wilkerson was quickly overshadowed by his off the field issues. He caused, and continues to cause, a distraction for the organization. From his lack of interest in playing the game back in 2016 by skipping mini-camp, to his continuous late arrivals to team meetings, he has been a lingering virus.
The Jets missed their chance to put their franchise tag on Wilkerson last season, and instead signed him to a multi-million dollar contract. The franchise tag would have saved them from losing the close to $9 they’re expected to when they cut him loose. In the end however, the team should have no regrets. The best days of Wilkerson may have already come and gone, and the Jets understand that. Letting him walk won’t only help support their already absurd amount of cap space this offseason, but will relieve much stress that stemmed from his loss of interest.
Kyle Hirshkind also contributed to this article.