FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Muhammad Wilkerson has no future with the Jets. He knows it and they know it. He'll be released long before his 2018 salary is guaranteed on March 16.
And really, there's no reason to wait that long anymore.
Wilkerson was punished by Jets coach Todd Bowles on Friday, after he showed up late -- very late -- to the team facility, according to a team source. Bowles immediately told the 28-year-old malcontent he wouldn't be traveling to New Orleans with the team for the game on Sunday. And according to one team source, his pseudo-suspension could last longer than that.
And it should. The Jets should essentially rid themselves of Wilkerson now by suspending him for the last three games of the season. He's clearly not happy. He's not having much of an impact. And he can't even bother showing up on time anymore.
So what's the point? Just end this failed marriage now.
Whatever the Jets decide to do next, the divorce is coming by March 16 -- the third day of the next league year. That's when Wilkerson's $16.75 million salary for 2018 becomes guaranteed. There is no chance of the Jets allowing that to happen -- as multiple team sources have confirmed multiple times. They already have enough buyers' remorse for the $36.75 million they've paid him the last two seasons.
What did the Jets get for that money? Headaches, mostly. This will be the third time in the last two seasons that Wilkerson has been benched for being late to team activities. Meanwhile, he's produced eight sacks in his last 28 games.
Even if it was just a football decision there's no way the rebuilding Jets would be crazy enough to pay him that money or let him count for $20 million against their 2018 cap (never mind the $32 million left on his contract in the two years after that). The Jets could cut him in March and immediately save $11 million in cap space. If they declare him a post-June 1 cut, the overall cap savings would balloon to $17 million.
That will be the easiest offseason decision Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has to make.
So why delay it? Clearly, Bowles has had it with Wilkerson -- who wasn't spotted at practice on Friday after he had already nearly missed the team's morning meeting. Just 11 days earlier, when he was discussing the last time Wilkerson was punished -- missing a quarter against the Chiefs for being late to a team meeting the day before - Bowles actually said he still considered Wilkerson a team leader.
Presumably he was biting hard through his tongue. And if he wasn't then, he sure is now.
This time, the Jets' coach didn't give many details on why Wilkerson wouldn't be coming to New Orleans, saying over and over that "I'm just worried about the guys going to the game, and I'm going to coach those 53 guys." But it was clear he was angry about having to discuss another problem with this so-called leader again.
Bowles also wouldn't say if he had made any decision on Wilkerson's status for the Jets' Christmas Eve game at home against the Los Angeles Chargers or their New Year's Eve finale in New England. At this point, though, what would make anyone think Wilkerson is going to change? His lateness has been chronic, according to a team source. There are many -- including teammates -- who think he's reached the point where he just doesn't care.
So end it now. Get rid of the distraction. Send a powerful message to the young team that rules apply to everyone, and anyone who gets in the way of the Jets' "One team, one goal" mantra is expendable. At this point, if Bowles made that announcement, Wilkerson's Jets teammates might stand and applaud.
This, by the way, is what Bowles said he told his team after the last time Wilkerson was benched, less than two weeks ago: "The biggest thing is we are family here, and sometimes families do different things. At the end of the day, you love them up, and you may be pissed off for a minute, and you get over it and move on."
That's a sweet sentiment, but it's pointless now. Wilkerson is leaving the family in three months anyway. There's no reason to let him stick around and ruin the holidays too. Tell him he can stay home, collect his checks (or not), and get ready for free agency.
Then Bowles can really be free to do what he said he planned to do: Coach the guys who are here.
And the ones who want to be here, too.