The latest chapter in the Muhammad Wilkerson saga has been put in the books, as Wilkerson did not play or travel with the team this weekend as the Jets took on the New Orleans Saints.
Wilkerson was reportedly late for a team meeting Friday morning (again) and head coach Todd Bowles has come down with his harshest punishment yet on the 7-year veteran. This is the second time this year, that we know of, that Wilkerson has been late to a team meeting, and the first punishment was a 1st quarter benching against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago. Wilkerson was also benched for the 1st quarter last season in a game in Miami after missing a practice when the team had a cake waiting for him to celebrate his birthday.
After the departure of Muhammad’s good friend and a bit of a bad influence Sheldon Richardson, Wilkerson appeared to emerge as a leader of this young Jets team, vocally and by his actions. Wilkerson often led the team huddle before pregame warmups, delivering an inspiring and enthusiastic message, but recently Demario Davis has taken over that ritual, a telling sign Wilkerson is not a leader on this team. Wilkerson also led the defensive line in wind sprints in the 2nd half of the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, which led the public to believe he turned a corner.
Mo has become a completely different player since signing his 5-year, $86 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Wilkerson had all the intangibles to be a franchise type player for the Jets, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and attending Linden High School. Wilkerson went on to play collegiately at Temple University and being selected by his hometown Jets 30th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Wilkerson’s best two seasons with the Jets game in 2013 and 2015 where he recorded 10.5 and 12.0 sacks, respectively. Mo was a man on a mission in 2015 in the last year of his rookie contract, wanting to prove himself to the new regime of Todd Bowles and General Manager Mike Maccagnan.
Maccagnan never seemed sold on Wilkerson, who broke his ankle in the season finale against Buffalo in 2015. Wilkerson didn’t get his new deal until July 15th at 3:58 pm, two minutes before the deadline for players to either get new contracts or get designated with the franchise tag.
Ever since that day Wilkerson has been a different player, only recording 8 sacks since signing his name on the contract. Many chalked up the first half of the 2016 season due to his recently surgically repaired ankle, however after Bowles and Wilkerson both declared that he was physically healthy it became apparent that Wilkerson was only in it for the money. Specifically, the $36.75 Million he has pocketed since signing his mega-deal.
Wilkerson is due $16.75 Million next season, but that will hardly be the case. It is hard to envision Wilkerson on this team going forward, especially at that salary. That number becomes fully guaranteed on March 16, 2018, however if the Jets release Wilkerson, they will save $11 Million towards their cap space in 2018, with $9 million in dead money. However, if the Jets make Wilkerson a Post-June 1 cut, the money gets prorated over 2 years.
Wilkerson has clearly checked out and Todd Bowles should stamp his foot down even further by not playing Wilkerson against the Chargers or Patriots. Wilkerson had the opportunity to be one of the best Jets ever, but he never really wanted to be a part of this organization, he just wanted to secure his money and run, and he has.