In a move that many saw as long overdue, the New York Jets released embattled DL Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday, less than two years after signing a mammoth five-year, $86 million deal to be the team’s anchor along the defensive line.
It was not long ago that Wilkerson was one of the NFL’s top defensive lineman, collecting 12 sacks in 2015 and being named a second-team All-Pro. Since then, he has been nothing short of a cancer in the locker room and a frequent visitor to the trainer’s room. The Jets were fed up with the former 2011 first round pick out of Temple’s tardiness to meetings and lackluster effort on the field. They benched Wilkerson late last season to keep him from sustaining any longterm injury that might force them to retain him this year.
By cutting Wilkerson, the Jets will reportedly realize a cap savings of $11 million this season. GM Mike Maccagnan told reporters that Wilkerson’s contract was always predicated on a “two-year window” and was structured as such. Wilkerson made the decision an easy one by not holding up his end of the bargain.
In other news, veteran RB Matt Forte informed the team that he is retiring from the NFL after ten seasons. He played his first eight with the Bears in Chicago and the last two with the Jets. Forte finished his career with 14,468 total yards from scrimmage (28th all-time). Only two other active NFL players have more: RB Frank Gore (17,698) and WR Larry Fitzgerald (15,613).
The Jets will clear $3 million more in cap room through Forte’s retirement, giving them approximately $93.4 million in cap space to spend this offseason.
As for who the Jets will be targeting, other than QB Kirk Cousins in free agency come March 14, Maccagnan was cagey in his response. He knows he has a ton of money to work with but doesn’t want to tip his hand or be used as a bargaining strategy for agents against other teams.