Packers land free-agent DE Muhammad Wilkerson

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Former New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson smiles during a preseason game in Detroit on Aug. 19, 2017.

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers are hoping they are getting a motivated pass rusher in Muhammad Wilkerson.

After two lackluster years with the New York Jets, Wilkerson agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Packers on Tuesday evening, a source said.

According to NFL Network, the deal is for $5 million and includes another $3 million in incentives.

The one-year deal means that Wilkerson, who was making $17.2 million per year before the Jets cut him earlier this month, will have a chance to prove to the rest of the league that he is the guy who had 28.5 sacks from 2013-15 with the Jets.

Wilkerson rejoins defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was serving in a similar position when the Jets selected Wilkerson in the first round in 2011. Pettine was a big proponent of drafting Wilkerson and helped him develop from a small-school draft choice to a star.

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The Packers badly need Wilkerson to regain his pass-rushing form. If they can get high performance out of him, they will have three solid pass rushers across the front with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Since the Packers have not addressed their cornerback position in free agency, they’re going to need to be able to put heat on opposing quarterbacks. The 6-4, 315-pound Wilkerson is only 28 years old despite having eight years of experience under his belt and doesn’t turn 29 until October.

With the Jets, Wilkerson played every defensive line position in Pettine’s defense, sometimes lining up as a nose tackle. When he’s at his best, he’s quick off the ball and able to split double teams and shoot gaps.

The Jets released Wilkerson, 28, after two down seasons in which he dealt with leg, shoulder and toe injuries. In 2016, he was still recovering from a broken leg suffered late the previous season and managed just 4½ sacks. Last season, he was banged up and managed just 3½ sacks in 13 games.

The Packers undoubtedly wanted to address Wilkerson's reported tardiness for meetings and find out how motivated he was for a new start.

Green Bay was Wilkerson’s first visit after the Jets cut him. He followed up with visits to New Orleans, Kansas City and Washington. He finished up his visit to Washington on Tuesday and made his decision later that evening.

Wilkerson, who signed a five-year, $86 million deal in 2016, has told people he desperately wants to play for a winning organization, and he might have been worn down in New York. In his seven seasons, the Jets were 46-66 and didn't make the playoffs.

In 2013, Wilkerson was voted team MVP by his teammates after playing more than 1,000 snaps and compiling 63 tackles, 10½ sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. In ’14, he missed three games, but had 56 tackles, six sacks, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

He was voted to the Pro Bowl after his 12-sack season in ’15.


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