Hit the road, Mo.
The New York Jets informed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson of his release on Wednesday, the team announced.
In 2016, Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86 million extension with the Jets. Two disappointing seasons and $36.8 million later, he's back on the market. Wilkerson was projected to earn around $20 million in 2018, but will now count just $6 million against the salary cap. The Jets free up $11 million in salary-cap space by cutting the 28-year-old pass rusher.
"Mo was a business decision, " Bowles said of the release Wednesday. "It wasn't disciplinary at all. It was a business decision that we made that was good for both parties, and we made that decision.
"I'm disappointed for the team. I'm disappointed for him. Obviously it didn't work out, but I have a lot of love for Mo. I still think he's got some football ahead of him and he's got some good football ahead of him. I just wish him the best."
So ends the tiresome saga of Wilkerson's stay in New York. Once a transcendent first-round selection and a Jersey-bred fan favorite, Wilkerson racked up 44.5 sacks in his time with Gang Green, including 28.5 from 2013 through 2015. The anchor of the Sons of Anarchy defensive line (Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson), Wilkerson was a versatile pass rusher, able to play as a tackle or an end.
But one by one, the line broke up. Harrison left to the crosstown New York Giants in free agency while Wilkerson got paid in 2016; Richardson was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2017; and with their exits went Wilkerson's work ethic and punctuality.
Wilkerson pushed Todd Bowles and the Jets coaching staff to the brink on multiple occasions. In the middle of an underwhelming 2016 season, Wilkerson skipped out on a team meeting, inadvertently missing his own birthday party, at which he was to be presented with a cake. "I'm told they even had a cake ready to go for him and he didn't show up," NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported at the time.
Near the end of the 2017 season, Wilkerson was benched for the first quarter of New York's win over Kansas City and didn't travel with the team to a game in New Orleans, as punishment for behavioral issues.
Jets brass and fans alike had had it with Wilkerson, who they perceived as putting in far less effort since securing his mega-deal. After signing the pact in 2016, the pass rusher recorded just eight sacks; if you do the math, Gang Green paid $4.6 million per sack.
In a league void of game-changing pass rushers and space eaters, Wilkerson will likely find a home quickly, and the lineman should welcome a fresh start. But his arrival won't come without serious character concerns.