It was the last offseason when the Green Bay Packers decided to sign the recently cut, Muhammad Wilkerson to a one year, $5 million contract on a “prove-it” deal, after disappointing 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Green Bay was hoping that a change in scenery and the familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense from his time with the New York Jets would give Wilkerson a spark and they would see similar numbers to what he produced in 2015.
During the 2015 season, Wilkerson made the Pro Bowl and recorded 64 total tackles, 28 quarterback hits, 12 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
Unfortunately for Wilkerson and the Green Bay Packers, he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in week three against the Washington Redskins that would land him on injured reserve. In those three games, Wilkerson made five total tackles. It’s a very small sample size to truly know how the season would have turned out for him had he stayed healthy.
Although we don’t have much to go off of on the field in regards to Wilkerson’s time in Green Bay, he is quite familiar with Pettine’s system as well as his combination of size and quickness make him very versatile on the defensive line.
During training camp last summer, it was talked about by other players on the Green Bay Packers team how easily Wilkerson had transitioned into the defense after coming from a different team. Often times that familiarity and confidence in the scheme will lead to production on the football field.
Given his size at 6’4″, 315 pounds, coupled with his agility, Wilkerson has the ability to play anywhere on the defensive line. This is a quality that Pettine and really any coach adores in a player, as it allows them to switch up the looks that they are giving the offense and to create mismatches.
The Green Bay Packers have a fantastic duo on the defensive line in Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, but at this point, we still haven’t seen enough from Tyler Lancaster and Montravius Adams to know what kind of production we will see from the two on a regular basis. Retaining Wilkerson will give the Packers added depth and someone with proven playmaking potential on the defensive line.
Wilkerson will enter the 2019 offseason as an unrestricted free agent, which means he is free to sign with whichever team he desires. With that said, Wilkerson should consider that playing under coach Pettine could give him his best chance at a successful season.
As of now, it is unknown how interested the Green Bay Packers are in bringing Wilkerson back for the upcoming season, but if they do, it will most likely be on another one year deal and once again at a reduced price given his injury in 2018.
On the free agent market, there aren’t a plethora of options at defensive end but the group is headlined by Dante Fowler and Cameron Wake. Both of which should be on General Manager Brian Gutekunst’s radar but will end up being more expensive than Wilkerson.
Considering the Green Bay Packers have a number of other positions to address, perhaps that money could be better spent elsewhere, rather than at defensive end.
Muhammad Wilkerson still has to prove he can have a career resurgence but at 29 years old, there should be plenty of gas left in the tank. As for the Green Bay Packers, taking another flyer on Wilkerson for a few million dollars and a one year deal is something that they should do.