Towards the end of last season, rumors began to emerge that the Jets were fed up with DE Muhammad Wilkerson’s behavior and play on the field. His time as a Jet was rumored to be over after the 2017 season. Wilkerson was fresh off a 12 sack 39 tackle Pro Bowl season in 2015 when he inked a 5 year 86 million dollar contract. Wilkerson had been underwhelming in the first two seasons of that contract extension. In 28 games, he amassed 8 sacks and 58 tackles. In addition to poor play, it was rumored that was often late for team activities. The tardiness got to the point where he did not travel to a game versus the Saints and was benched for a portion of a game versus the Chiefs. Wilkerson did not play for the remainder of the season after not traveling to New Orleans.
As of this afternoon, the Jets are have officially released Wilkerson. In light of that upcoming news, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network broke news this morning that Wilkerson would likely be visiting the Packers first.
Despite announcing it last week, the #Jets haven’t officially released DE Muhammad Wilkerson yet. That should happen today… and I’m told his first free agent visit is likely to be with the #Packers. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could help rejuvenate his career.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2018
Rapoport would go on to say that Packers new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coached Mo Wilkerson in 2011 and 2012 with the Jets, and that signing Wilkerson would not count towards the compensatory pick formula. Both of which are important factors in the Packers interest in Wilkerson.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2018
Lets take a look at how Mo Wilkerson fits in Green Bay. Wilkerson is a 6’4″ 315 Lb. 3-4 defensive end with long 35.25 inch arms. Wilkerson is undoubtedly a good fit in Pettine’s scheme having played in it for two seasons to start his career. The Packers are in a good position for interior defensive linemen with star players Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark holding down the middle and a high potential guy in Montravius Adams. The line also features 3rd year defensive end Dean Lowry. A lot has been made this offseason about upgrading the Packers pass rush from the outside linebacker position. Wilkerson presents an intriguing option as an interior pass rusher for the Packers.
Weight and conditioning issues were rumored to be causing Wilkerson’s drop in play, in addition to his issue with tardiness. There is no doubt that he is a big time risk for any team. I do not think anyone expects Wilkerson to get big time interest for a long-term contract. He will likely sign a short-term “prove it” deal with some team. If Mo Wilkerson is motivated to get in good shape and show up on time, he could be a big time contributor to a number of defenses. The Packers will certainly rely on Pettine’s review of Wilkerson in their evaluation. The fact that they are rumored to be having him in for a visit tells me that his review was positive.
I took to the film from last season to see just what Mo Wilkerson has left in the tank. Here’s a few plays from last season in which he flashes some talent:
Wilkerson (96) is lined up inside over the A gap to the right of the center. Matt Ryan hands off to Tevin Colman to the right. Wilkerson works down the line of scrimmage and makes the stop after a gain of only a couple of yards.
On this play, Wilkerson (96) is lined up in the B gap to the left. He beats the guard in front of him badly and nearly takes Tevin Colman down for a safety on this play.
Wilkerson (96) is lined up directly over the right tackle on this play. He gets some penetration towards Tyrod Taylor and was eventually able to escape his block and stop Taylor from escaping the pocket.
Wilkerson only accumulated 3.5 sacks in his 13 games in 2017. Those sacks mostly resulted from quarterbacks escaping the pocket, rather than Wilkerson actually creating pressure. With that being said, I don not think he is going to be the savior for the Packers pass rush if signed. I do see him as an asset and a good fit if signed however. He clearly was not motivated in New York last season, and it showed up on tape.
This would be Brian Gutekunst’s first significant signing. Gutekunst would be making what would probably be a low risk boom or bust signing. I’m very much in favor of this signing if it is for the right price. He could come into Green Bay and be a good player that they could throw into the rotation right away. Having an abundance of talented defensive linemen to rotate upfront is always big advantage. Games are still won and lost up front in the NFL.