Is Muhammad Wilkerson playing himself off of the New York Jets?
When the New York Jets signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to an $86 million contract before the to 2016 season. The team thought they were locking in a key building block for their future defense. Instead Wilkerson has become the Jet version of the Notorious B.I.G. song, Mo Money Mo Problems.
Last season, the excuse was that Wilkerson’s poor 2016 campaign with just 4.5 sacks was due to being rushed back from a broken leg that ended his 2015 season. However, there is no excuse for his poor play in 2017. The Jets whole defensive line has been a disaster with zero sacks through six games. That’s right, in the words of Animal House’s Dean Wormer “zero point zero.”
While Leonard Williams has been nursing an injured wrist from training camp, Wilkerson doesn’t have that luxury. In fact Wilkerson only has nine solo tackles and only one quarterback hurry. Wilkerson doesn’t even have a quarterback hit this season which means through six games Wilkerson not only hasn’t laid a hand on an opposing quarterback, but has one pressure.
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The 28-year-old will need to finish strong over the final ten games if he want’s to remain in New York after the 2017 season. If the Jets cut him before March they would take a $ 9 million dead cap hit, but would have $58 million worth of cap space over the next three season including $20 million freed for the 2018 season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wilkerson ranks 94th out of 110 interior defensive linemen for pass rushing in 2017. With Leonard Williams on the roster, who is both younger and under a better contract, the Jets wouldn’t lose much sleep over cutting Wilkerson at the end of the season especially if he continues to play like this.
The thing that stats cannot measure is effort and watching every snap of Wilkerson this season, it’s clear that he isn’t putting out the same effort he used to. Is it because he finally got the big payday? Let’s face it the best years of Wilkerson’s career came when he was trying to negotiate a new long-term contract with New York.
Say what you want about the 2017 Jets, but one thing that has been better is the overall team effort. The team is playing hard for Todd Bowles, and the only two exceptions have been Wilkerson and Williams. At least Williams isn’t a massive salary cap hit and is a younger player, cutting Wilkerson, who cannot get to the quarterback in a passing league, makes too much sense for New York at the end of the season.
Unless Big Mo has a renaissance season in the second half of 2017, he will likely be playing somewhere else in 2018.