The Jets have officially released Muhammad Wilkerson as the team filed the necessary paperwork to let him go. The decision to part ways with the defensive end was announced last Wednesday.
"Mo's was a business decision," head coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday at the NFL Combine. "It wasn't disciplinary at all."
Wilkerson was inactive for the last three games due to what Bowles said was a coach's decision.
He had been benched due to showing up to the team facility late on Dec. 14 -- the third straight season in which Wilkerson was benched for being late to a team meeting.
Wilkerson just completed the third year of a five-year, $86 million contract. The 28-year-old defensive end totaled 46 combined tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and one interception this past season.
It was always viewed as unlikely that Wilkerson, whose $16.7 million salary for 2018 becomes fully guaranteed if he gets hurt or if he is on the Jets roster as of the third day of the new league year in March, would be a Jet next year.
INDIANAPOLIS - The official release of Muhammad Wilkerson came as no surprise and without an ounce of regret from the Jets. Clearing $11 million in cap space and ridding themselves of a problem player who was drastically under-producing was an absolute no-brainer.
But it was still sad.
That seemed to be the general sense of the Jets' decision-makers on Wednesday when the move was officially announced. It was only 19 months ago, after all, when they gave Wilkerson a five-year, $86 million contract and viewed him as an anchor of their future defensive lines. He had the potential for greatness, and the Jets were banking on that fact.
Two miserable seasons later, Wilkerson has collected $37 million for eight sacks in 28 games, and along the way he was benched twice, basically suspended for the last two games of last season, and amassed what a source said was hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for repeated lateness and other violations of team rules.
He could've been so much more.
"I think when you sign a player you think of the potential he has and you try to help him fulfill that," Jets GM Mike Maccagnan said on Wednesday from the NFL scouting combine. "When something doesn't work out, you wish it would have, but it didn't."
It didn't because, as he said, "with contracts of that size, there's expectations of performance." Wilkerson had 12 sacks the season before he signed his deal. He looked like he was just scratching the surface of what he could do.
But after he got paid, it seemed as if he didn't care. Even his teammates noticed his increasingly bad attitude and one player said no one in the locker room would be sad to see him go. Maccagnan said "this was kind of a tough decision," but really it wasn't - not with Wilkerson essentially (and in some cases literally) not showing up. The Jets were so eager to let him go they didn't even bother to try to renegotiate his deal.
"I'm disappointed for the team. I'm disappointed for him," said Bowles. "Obviously it didn't work out, but I have a lot of love for Mo. I think he's still got a lot of football ahead of him, and he's got some good football ahead of him. I just wish him the best."
Wilkerson is still young and still has talent, if he can muster an actual will to play. Surely he will find a home in the league somewhere next season - albeit far below the $16.75 million salary he was scheduled to make.
As for the Jets, they will be better off without a veteran player like that dragging on their locker room. They are now approaching the $100 million mark in available salary cap space this offseason. It's not a great market for free agents, but they will soon find that Wilkerson is very easily replaced.