A certain beat writer for the New York Daily News crossed a line the other day (as he often does), attacking Muhammad Wilkerson. The usual anonymous sources called Wilkerson fat, out of shape, terrible, disgusting and painted an otherwise morbid picture of one of the Jets best players.
It’s no secret that Wilkerson had a poor season last year after returning from a broken leg he suffered against the Bills in Week 17 of 2015. For whatever reason, perhaps he rushed back too soon, Wilkerson did not have the same burst off the line, strength at the point of attack and finished with only 4.5 sacks. It was a bad look for he and the Jets, after receiving a 5 year, $86 million contract that offseason. (Kudos to Maccagnan for being the first of three Jets GMs to actually get the deal done – who also says he has no second thoughts about the deal)
Now, what would prevent Wilkerson from having a repeat performance?.. The guaranteed money remaining on his deal. After 2017, the only penalty the Jet would assume is the remaining roster bonuses of $3 million each year for 2018-2020. They could cut Wilkerson to save $11 million in 2018 (It would cost the team $9 million as the three remaining roster bonuses will accelerate to that year). If Wilkerson wants to continue being paid as one of the best 3-4 DE’s in the league ($15+ million), he will have to earn it or he will essentially be burning a pile of money.
Back to the cheap shots from the cheap writer. It was quickly proven that the ‘anonymous sources’ were made up. Certain members of the Jets beat took issue with the false report:
Wilkerson posted a video this week stating:
“They say I’m fat and out of shape? Ha-ha. Keep sleeping on me. I’m telling you.”
Mo has always played like one of the two best defensive lineman in the league (JJ Watt). There are several reasons to think Wilkerson will return to form. He is over a full year removed from the injury, financial interest, his pride being challenged and the defense having a better structure in 2017. The strength of Todd Bowles’ defense is from the secondary forward. Revis’ play falling off a cliff shocked many (a regression was expected but not to that extent) and the defense was unable to compensate once the season began. It is being addressed (Mo Claiborne and likely draft picks) so the D-line should thrive because of it. Expect Mo to return close to the 12 sack season he had in the first year under Bowles.
Calling someone fat is generally fighting words. Expect Wilkerson to come out fighting this season on the field.