The New York Jets are beginning to evaluate their future. That future should not include defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
Stories—not the good kind—continue to surround New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who made headlines last week when it was reported that his days “were numbered.”
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, a team source said that Wilkerson is “gone” at the end of the year. This news came on the heels of head coach Todd Bowles benching Wilkerson for the first quarter of the Jets game against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) December 7, 2017
Before the 2016 season, Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86 million contract extension after having a career season with 12 sacks in 2015. Since then, Wilkerson has produced just seven sacks. While sacks should not be the only statistic that defensive ends are judged on, it is still heavily disappointing that Wilkerson’s production on the field has not lived up to his contract.
According to NFL.com, out of the league’s top 15 sack leaders, 10 are defensive linemen. The 15th player on that list is Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who has 8.5 sacks. Graham, along with everyone else on that list, all make less than Wilkerson does annually.
Adrian Clayborn, defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, currently sits ninth in the NFL with nine sacks. Clayborn is making $8.5 million this year. Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints, with 10 sacks on the year, will rake in $12 million this year.
Wilkerson, with a whopping 3.5 sacks this year, will make $18 million in 2017 and is set to make $20 million in 2018.
Wilkerson’s production on the field this year is a flat out joke. With teammate Leonard Williams eating up a majority of double teams, there’s no reason why Wilkerson should not be more productive. He came off a down season in 2016, one in which he was given a pass because he was coming off an injury. This was the year that was going to be the bounce-back year. Safe to say, it hasn’t turned out like that.
Wilkerson has arguably had his worst season statistically since his rookie year. Aside from his lack of sack production, there is another statistic that is even more gut-wrenching.
Wilkerson only has two “stuffs” for three yards this year, meaning tackles at the line of scrimmage in which a player is pushed back a yard or two. That’s by far the lowest total in his seven-year career. Last year, he had six stuffs for 15 yards. As mentioned before, with Williams being double-teamed and nose tackle Steve McLendon going up against the center and both guards at times, Wilkerson should be more productive in this category. This statistic is alarming.
In addition to the lack of production, Wilkerson has been nothing but a pain in the you know what. He still has not figured out how to use an alarm clock, as he continues to be late for meetings. And quite frankly, it doesn’t seem as if he cares that much on the field.
New York can get out of Wilkerson’s contract by releasing him before his 2018 salary becomes guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in March. If they decide to designate Wilkerson as a player to cut after June 1, the Jets would free up $17 million in cap space, however, they would have to eat up $3 million in dead money.
That seems to be the right move.