Muhammad Wilkerson

Latest On Muhammad Wilkerson’s Future

Muhammad Wilkerson may have played his final down for the Jets. The seventh-year defensive end did not make the trip to New Orleans for the Jets’ Week 15 game, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports it was because Wilkerson was “very late” to the team facility.

This latest tardiness episode involved a meeting on Friday morning, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Wilkerson has endured issues showing up on time for meetings during his Jets run, with another instance having occurred earlier this month. That led Todd Bowles to bench him for a period during the Jets’ Week 13 win over the Chiefs.

Multiple team sources confirmed to Vacchiano there is “no chance” Wilkerson is on the Jets on the third day of the 2018 league year, when his $16.75MM salary shifts from guaranteed against injury to fully guaranteed. Wilkerson’s suspension could last longer than the Jets’ Week 15 game against the Saints, Vacchiano reports, adding the team should just bench him for the rest of the season. And this could well be because of that salary guarantee.

Shelving Wilkerson would be a prudent move, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap writes, suggesting the bubble-wrap scenario the Bills used with Tyrod Taylor late last season in order to avoid injury.

The Jets will still carry $9MM in dead money upon releasing Wilkerson, but unlike this year, they can afford such a penalty. Gang Green’s expected to hold more than $70MM in cap space.

If this is the end for Wilkerson and the Jets, the 2011 first-round pick has 44.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and 28 pass deflections. Only eight of those 44.5 sacks came since he signed that mammoth extension in 2016, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson

This could be the beginning of the end for the Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson will not make the trip with the team to New Orleans, coach Todd Bowles told reporters on Friday. Bowles added that it’s a coach’s decision. Muhammad Wilkerson

Wilkerson has failed to show up on time for several team functions this year, leading to serious friction between him and the coaching staff. Earlier this month, the Jets benched the defensive lineman for the first quarter of their game against the Chiefs. The Jets went on to win that game without one of their highest-paid players on the field at the outset.

The Jets gave Wilkerson a five-year, $86MM deal in the summer of 2016 and, so far, that’s looking like a huge mistake. Insubordination aside, Wilkerson’s production has been all around flat. The Temple product ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 51 ranked interior defender in the NFL while getting paid as though he is one of the league’s very best. The traditional numbers also indicate a slide. Wilkerson had 12 sacks in his contract year (2015), but he has recorded just eight sacks combined over the last two seasons.

The Jets can create $11MM in cap space by releasing Wilkerson this offseason, and that seems like a definite possibility at this point. Recently, a team source told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that Wilkerson will be “gone” this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Patriots, Giants, Jets, Cowboys

Rob Gronkowski will miss out on more than $270K in salary and bonuses as a result of his one-week suspension, but the Patriots tight end could see his finances affected even further due to the ban, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com explains. Under the terms of a restructured contract signed earlier this year, Gronkowski can earn three separate tiers of incentives, all of which are tied to playtime and performance. The top tier — which includes a 90% playtime requirement as one stipulation — could now be nearly impossible to reach, as Gronkowski has played on 83.4% of New England’s offensive snaps thus far (and will obviously see that percentage decrease as a result of next week’s absence).

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo will remain “heavily involved” in the Giants‘ defensive scheme, but secondary coach David Merrit will also see an increased workload, Spagnuolo told reporters, including James Kratch of NJ.com (Twitter link). Spagnuolo, of course, is still New York’s defensive coordinator in addition to interim head coach following the firing of Ben McAdoo, but with gameday responsibilities now on the table, Spagnuolo will almost certainly require assistance. Merritt, for his part, is the Giants’ longest-tenured assistant, as he’s been with the club for 14 years.
  • Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has continued to have trouble with tardiness, and his one-quarter suspension on Sunday was indeed a result of missed meetings, reports Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Wilkerson, who signed a five-year, $86MM deal last summer, but he’s offered only middling production this season. In 12 games, Wilkerson has managed 2.5 sacks and graded as the NFL’s No. 55 interior defender among 117 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. New York can create $11MM in cap space by releasing Wilkerson this offseason, and a team source said Wilkerson will be “gone,” per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
  • It’s no secret that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was against the NFL extending commissioner Roger Goodell, but now that a deal is officially signed, Jones doesn’t have many avenues to pursue, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. If Jones attempts to rip up the contract, Goodell would likely be entitled to a hefty buyout. But Jones could still pursue a legal strategy, especially if he believes the league’s owners were supposed to discuss Goodell’s contract before it became official, per Florio.

Jets Notes: Watson, Wilkerson, Sanchez

Did the Jets make a franchise-altering mistake by not taking quarterback Deshaun Watson? Some within the organization believe that’s the case, particularly those who lobbied hard for him during the draft, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Mehta hears that some Jets officials were willing to trade a 2018 first-round pick plus Muhammad Wilkerson to move back into the first round to select Watson.

One can’t help but wonder whether the inclusion of Wilkerson in a trade offer would have helped the Jets’ chances. Wilkerson was once one of the league’s best values on the defensive line, but that went out of the window when he signed a five-year, $86MM extension before the start of last season and regressed sharply in 2016. Jets fans can dream about a scenario in which a future first-round pick, Wilkerson, and perhaps other draft considerations would have been enough to sway the Browns or Saints, but it’s hard to totally buy into that idea.

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • After the Bills managed to unload Marcell Dareus, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com wonders aloud if the Jets could move Wilkerson before Tuesday’s trade deadline. He rightly concludes that a trade is highly unlikely. Aside from his onerous contract, Wilkerson’s production has still not returned to 2015 levels and he is dealing with multiple nagging injuries.
  • Recently, former Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he never saw Mark Sanchez as a “franchise quarterback,” but felt that he was good enough to “win with.” Those comments stand in stark contrast with what he wrote in his 2011 book, as Mike Florio of PFT notes. Ryan wrote that Sanchez was going to be “extraordinary in the NFL” and explained the thought process behind trading up to the No. 5 pick in the draft to get him. Ryan, it seems, is looking to rewrite history a little bit. This all may be part of an effort to to work his way back towards becoming an NFL head coach, but that seems unlikely at the moment.

Latest On Muhammad Wilkerson’s Future

Muhammad Wilkerson

Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is only in the second season of a five-year, $86MM contract, but the two sides might be headed for a divorce. The 27-year-old Wilkerson hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing his deal, which could lead the Jets to release him in the offseason, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

If the Jets do part with Wilkerson over the winter, he’d join Sheldon Richardson as the second high-profile defensive lineman they’d have jettisoned in recent months. Both players caused some behind-the-scenes headaches in 2016, but Richardson still brought Gang Green a quality return via trade, going to Seattle last month for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and multiple draft picks, including a second-rounder in 2018. Wilkerson hasn’t done anything this year to boost his trade stock, though, having failed to register a single quarterback hit during the Jets’ 3-3 start. Despite that, head coach Todd Bowles told Rich Cimini of ESPN.com and other reporters on Wednesday that Wilkerson has played “well.”

Bowles’ assessment notwithstanding, it’s fair to say Wilkerson’s play has dropped off dating back to last season. After combining for 36.5 sacks during his first five years, including a career-high 12 in 2015, Wilkerson has totaled just 4.5 since signing his big-money pact. As his traditional numbers began plummeting last season, so did his grades at Pro Football Focus. The site assigned Wilkerson a subpar rating in 2016 and, through six games this year, ranks his performance a lackluster 113th among 124 qualified interior D-linemen. In fairness to Wilkerson, injuries have likely played some part in his recent decline. The broken leg he suffered in the Jets’ 2015 regular-season finale may have slowed him to some degree in 2016, and this year he has dealt with a sprained shoulder and a toe problem. Nevertheless, he has appeared in 20 of 21 games dating back to last year, including all six this season. Wilkerson has never played in fewer than 13 games in a season, and has appeared in 98 of 102 since the Jets used a first-round pick on him in 2011.

Durability might not be enough to save Wilkerson if there isn’t an uptick in his performance over the final two-plus months of the season. Of course, it’s also worth noting that parting with Wilkerson would lead to significant savings for the Jets if he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut. The club would add $17MM in space (against $3MM in dead money) in 2018 if it goes that route, though it would have to carry his $20MM cap number until June 1. On the other hand, the Jets could cut eschew the post-June 1 designation and save $11MM of the $20MM by releasing him. With Wilkerson’s $16.75MM salary for next season set to become guaranteed on the third day of the league year in March, an answer on his future should come relatively early in the winter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Mo, Pats, Hightower

The Jets are “fully prepared” to release defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson if he posts another disappointing campaign in 2017, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Wilkerson graded as a bottom-15 edge defender last season, per Pro Football Focus, and sources tell Mehta that Gang Green isn’t happy with Wilkerson’s conditioning or motivation level. Speaking earlier this year, however, head coach Todd Bowles admitted Wilkerson was playing through injury in 2016, and the cost of cutting Wilkerson could also prove prohibitive. Even if he were designated as post-June 1 release, Wilkerson would count for $9MM in dead money over the 2018-19 seasons.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • After leaving last night’s game against the Chiefs with a knee injury, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has escaped with only a minor MCL sprain, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. New England gets a 10-day break before playing again, so it’s possible Hightower will be able to suit up when the Pats face the Saints in Week 2. If Hightower can’t go, New England will likely turn to fellow ‘backers David Harris and Elandon Roberts to take on more snaps.
  • Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley reached out to the Jets and Bowles immediately after being cut by the 49ers last week, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Kerley, of course, is now in his second stint with New York, as he spent 2011-15 with the club. The 28-year-old re-signed with San Francisco on a three-year deal that contained $2.8MM in guarantees, but was still handed his walking papers on Saturday. The Jets are now paying him the minimum to add experience to their youthful receiving corps.
  • Former Texans safety Robert Nelson worked out for the Jets today, per Rapoport (Twitter link). Nelson, 27, played in 11 games for Houston a year ago, and while he spent most of his time on special teams, he did manage one interception. New York ranked dead last in special teams DVOA in 2016, so Nelson could help out there, while the club is also fielding two rookie safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, so adding a defensive back with experience such as Nelson could make sense.
  • Patriots defensive end Geneo Grissom is the NFL’s highest-paid practice squad player at $36,716 per week, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. That’s an active roster salary for a player of Grissom’s experience (two accrued seasons), a clear indication New England wants to keep the former third-round pick around. For reference, the minimum salary for a practice squad player is $7,200 per week.

AFC East Notes: Peterson, Patriots, Jets

Adrian Peterson could be a tough sell for Patriots ownership, Mike Florio of PFT opines. The Pats are hosting the former Minnesota great on a visit, but Florio wonders aloud if the meeting designed solely to put pressure on free agent LeGarrette Blount. Despite his impressive on-field resume, Peterson’s off-field history could be tough for owner Robert Kraft to swallow. At the time of Peterson’s child-abuse charges, Kraft called the allegations “completely unacceptable and as abhorrent” as the Ray Rice situation. Less than three years later, Kraft likely feels the same way.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

AFC East Notes: Jets, Dolphins, Richardson

The Jets fined defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson “significant” amounts of money for tardiness before benching them for the first quarter of a November contest, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Indeed, sources indicate to Vacchiano that head coach Todd Bowles — often viewed as overly tolerant of his players’ indiscretions — isn’t so mild-mannered behind the scenes. Still, New York certainly didn’t expect Wilkerson to show commitment issues after inking him to a hefty extension last year.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • While Richardson’s lateness issues (and poor play) could negatively affect his trade value, the Jets still may be able to use the pass-rusher as a trade chit in the coming weeks, writes Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. If New York wants to trade back into Round 1 for a quarterback, for example, the team could potentially package Richardson and its second-round pick (No. 39) to move ahead of of a club like the Texans, who may also be looking for a QB. Getting back into the first round would also allow the Jets to pick up a fifth-year option on the signal-caller of their choice.
  • Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams took a sojourn to East Lansing to work out Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. Recently linked to free agent Johnathan Hankins, the Dolphins are in the market for a tackle to play alongside Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips. McDowell could be on the board when Miami picks at No. 22, although the Fins are expected to target edge help in the first round. The Dolphins are the first known team to meet with McDowell.
  • Safety prospects Josh Jones (North Carolina State) and Justin Evans (Texas A&M) will meet with the Dolphins soon, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Although Miami recently extended defensive back Reshad Jones, the club is still looking for another safety after Isa Abdul-Quddus was released following a neck injury. Jones has also drawn interest from the Ravens, while Evans has met with the Cowboys.

AFC Notes: Jets, Bengals, Raiders, Fins, Colts

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson took to Instagram in an effort to combat a recent report that he’s “terribly out of shape” (via Connor Hughes of NJ.com). “They say I’m fat and out of shape?” Wilkerson said while running on a treadmill. “Haha. Keep sleeping on me. I’m telling you.” It seems the scout who assessed Wilkerson’s conditioning was exaggerating, as photos (links here) the 27-year-old posted on Instagram earlier this month shoot down the idea that he’s in poor shape. Still, though, Wilkerson is coming off a disappointing 2016 – the first season of a five-year, $86MM contract – and could end up a cap casualty as early as next offseason if he doesn’t bounce back. Wilkerson notched 4.5 sacks last year (down from 12 in 2015) and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-worst qualified edge defender (109 qualifiers).

More from the AFC:

  • Bengals cornerback Adam Jones is no longer facing a felony charge over a January confrontation with hotel security guards, police and a nurse, reports Lisa Cornwell of the Associated Press. The felony charge resulted from Jones’ alleged “harassment of a member of the medical staff in the justice center with a bodily substance.” Specifically, Jones was accused of spitting on a nurse at the jail. If found guilty, he could have gone to jail for six to 12 months. Jones is still up against three misdemeanor charges, including assault, and the Bengals aren’t sure if they’re going to retain him.
  • One of Jones’ Bengals teammates, reserve quarterback A.J. McCarron, wouldn’t mind a trade out of Cincinnati. But Andy Dalton‘s backup isn’t going to cause problems if the Bengals don’t deal him to a starter-needy team. On the possibility of once again reporting to camp in a No. 2 role, McCarron told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer: “It’d be tough at first. Like, because I know I’m having to go through the whole backup process again. But at the same time, that’s my job. I need to be the best backup quarterback in the league and I’m going to go there and work my [butt] off to prove that and show that I am so that they’re proud, as an organization, to sit back and say at practice if they’re watching ‘like man, I’m glad we had that guy as our backup.’ I still want to make everybody proud.” McCarron, though, expects to end up a starter sometime. “Whether it’s this year or when I’m a free agent, I think somebody’s going to take a chance on me to be a starter,” said McCarron, who’s under Bengals control for two more years.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf reached out to commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday night about continuing the discussion to keep the Raiders, a source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter). There has been no significant progress on that front, however. Despite Schaaf’s efforts, it appears the Raiders’ departure from Oakland is inevitable.
  • Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso‘s three-year extension adds an even $25MM to the $3.91MM he’ll earn in 2017, tweets Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The $28.91MM deal includes $16MM in fully guaranteed money for Alonso, who’s now slated to remain with the Dolphins through the 2020 season.
  • Wide receiver Kamar Aiken‘s one-year pact with the Colts is worth $2.6MM – $1.5MM of which is guaranteed – and features up to $600K in per-game roster bonuses, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

East Notes: Jets, Eagles, Jenkins, Bills

Muhammad Wilkerson, who inked a monster extension with the Jets last year, appears to be extremely out of shape, according to multiple scouts who saw him at Temple’s Pro Day (via Manish Mehta of the Daily News). Wilkerson’s listed weight last season was 315 pounds and it’s unclear how heavy he is at the moment. The Jets effectively chose Wilkerson over fellow defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson last year by giving him the long-term deal and, so far, it’s not clear if Wilkerson will reward the Jets for their confidence in him. Last year Wilkerson had just 4.5 sacks, the lowest total since his rookie season. This year, he’s set to carry a $18MM cap number with a fully guaranteed $14.75MM base salary, so a trade is probably out of the question. Meanwhile, Brian Costello of the New York Post (on Twitter) posted a picture of Wilkerson from just last week in which he appears to be in the same shape he was last year.

A bit more from the NFL’s East divisions:

  • Eagles GM Howie Roseman continues to shoot down rumors that he offered up Malcolm Jenkins in trade talks for Brandin Cooks. His latest denial is the firmest one to date (Twitter link via 97.5 The Fanatic). “The Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Jenkins thing kind of gets under my skin. We were never going to trade Malcolm Jenkins,” Roseman said.
  • Initially reported as a four-year deal, kicker Steven Hauschka‘s pact with the Bills is actually a three-year contract, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). It’s worth $8.85MM, nearly half of which ($4MM) is guaranteed.
  • In case you missed it, Gang Green agreed to a deal with longtime Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne on Thursday.