New York Jets: The rise and fall of Muhammad Wilkerson

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 29: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 29: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

We look at the rise and fall of Muhammad Wilkerson as a member of the New York Jets.

Born in Linden, NJ, he was supposed to be the cornerstone of the New York Jets defense for years to come. However, it was not to be. In a move that we all saw coming, Wilkerson was released yesterday by the Jets. Per Rich Cimini of ESPN, the Jets will save $11 million against the salary cap by releasing him. Had he been on the roster after March 16, his entire $16.75 million salary for 2018 would have become guaranteed.

Nobody thought Wilkerson would be back for another year. The entire fan base it knew it wasn’t about if he would be cut but when. Wilkerson went from up and coming superstar to a lazy underachiever as fast as anyone in recent memory. Now that he is gone, let’s look back at the rise and fall at the star turned exiled defensive lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson.

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Our story begins in 2011 when Muhammad Wilkerson was selected in the first round of the draft out of Temple University. Right away he was penciled into the starting lineup by Rex Ryan and it paid dividends. The first sack of his career came in week two against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Wilkerson posted two more the rest of the season. He added 49 tackles and two forced fumbles as a rookie, showing he belonged.

Over the next two seasons Wilkerson saw his pass rush stats improve, peaking at 10.5 sacks in 2013. He also recorded his first interception of his career in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The following year the team picked up the fifth year option on his rookie deal. He posted six sacks in 13 starts. They wanted him to show it in his contract year, 2015, which Wilkerson was not thrilled about but he did it anyway. How well? Well enough to hit a career high in sacks with 12 and earn his first Pro Bowl selection, though he broke his leg in the final game of the season against the Buffalo Bills.

He was rewarded with a five-year, $86 million contract that included $53 million in guaranteed money. Finally the Jets took care of their star and were about to be rewarded, right? Wrong. Over the next two seasons he played and acted like a man that got his money and was finished. He only managed eight sacks over the next two seasons. Add that to the litany of disciplinary problems and as of yesterday afternoon, his career in New York was over.

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The move was unfortunate but hardly unexpected. We all knew that Wilkerson would not see the middle of March as a member of the Jets. Does he get another job? He sure is talented but he will have to convince another team that he cares. He probably doesn’t get more than a “show me” deal for one year. What a shame.