The “on again/off again,” “will they/won’t they” relationship between Muhammad Wilkerson and the New York Jets has finally arrived at its long awaited conclusion. After seven years together, the Jets have decided that they will move into the 2018 season without the 2011 first round pick.
We have released DL Muhammad Wilkerson. pic.twitter.com/NhLfoREpLK
— New York Jets (@nyjets) February 28, 2018
Where it Went Wrong
Following what felt like a season that just droned on and on, the decision seemed to be made with roughly three games remaining. Todd Bowles made the call to bench Wilkerson for the remaining games of 2017, preventing any injuries from binding the Jets to pay even more money than they would already.
Muhammad Wilkerson was the 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft. In his first five years in the league, he became a dominant force at his position. His standout season came in 2015, where it appeared that the Jets found a standout lineman that could get to the quarterback and be a force to be reckoned with. Wilkerson racked up 12 sacks, along with three forced fumbles in a season that earned him a Pro Bowl appearance. The fans begged and cried for the Jets to re-sign Wilkerson to a long term deal. And so they did.
Money Ain’t Everything
Signed through 2020, the Jets gave Muhammad Wilkerson a contract worth $86 million dollars. For the moment, it seemed like Wilkerson was going to be another defensive player that the Jets were proud to boast about. That was, until he lost his spirit to play.
Once he got paid, Wilkerson was not the same player. His performance dropped off a considerable amount, dropping from his 12 sacks in 2015 to a mere 4.5 in 2016. He notched one less in 2017, and his issues with missing team meetings got out of control. Wilkerson also didn’t record a single forced fumble for the first time in his career, while also logging a career low in tackles, recording only 26. Once listed as a healthy scratch against the Saints, his fate seemed all but sealed. The Jets announced Wednesday afternoon that they would be taking the cap hit and releasing Wilkerson.
There is much to be concerned about with the defense, as an already young and inexperienced unit was lacking a ton of depth. However, with Wilkerson being a huge distraction to the team having reached a solution, it is safe to say that there is nowhere to go but up. Free agency is fast approaching, and with the Jets freeing up to a total of $100 million dollars, thanks to the release and Matt Forte’s retirement, fans can expect them to go on a spending spree to help turn the tides in the Meadowlands.