Muhammad Wilkerson wrapped up his visit with the Packers and intends to see what other teams have to offer.
While the Packers are not believed to be out of the running, Wilkerson will now head south and meet with the Saints, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).
And Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets the Chiefs will be next on the defensive end’s itinerary, adding that Wilkerson is not yet in the negotiating stage of his process yet.
Wilkerson’s Packers two-day summit went “very well,” according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). The veteran defensive lineman’s agent told ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky the plan all along was to gauge interest from multiple teams. Part of the Packers’ intentions during Wilkerson’s Wisconsin trek was determining if he’d be comfortable in the league’s smallest market, Silverstein tweets, adding the Packers are now expected to move to the financial component of this process.
The Saints would make for an interesting fit. Wilkerson has played as a 3-4 defensive end throughout his career, and New Orleans saw an improvement last season while lining up in a 4-3 scheme. However, with nickel packages having replaced base sets as the new predominant look, it might not represent that much of a change for the eighth-year player.
Kansas City, though, does use a 3-4 scheme and has a need for front-seven assistance. The team has emerging dynamo Chris Jones at one defensive end spot and possible cap casualty Allen Bailey at the other. Wilkerson would likely represent an upgrade on Bailey but would almost certainly cost more as well — especially if this is now a race involving several teams. Like the Packers, who just hired Mike Pettine as DC, the Chiefs have a former Jets assistant in that role in Bob Sutton. The sixth-year K.C. DC was a senior defensive assistant during Wilkerson’s first two years.
Saints DC Dennis Allen doesn’t have a Jets tie, but the improving team has defensive-front space available alongside Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins.
None of these three early contenders are projected to be among the league’s top cap-space franchises this year, so there doesn’t appear to be a distinct advantage in this pursuit compared to competitions for other high-profile free agents.
Wilkerson was one of the best defenders in football over a stretch during the early and middle part of this decade, but after breaking his leg in Week 17 of the 2015 season, he hasn’t been quite the same. Trouble with Jets coaches followed, and Gang Green had to abandon another big Mike Maccagnan-era contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.