The Jets might have a weighty issue on their hands that they frankly don’t need.
The Daily News has learned that defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t exactly in the best shape of his life at the moment. Several scouts at Temple Pro Day in Philadelphia last week were aghast upon seeing a bloated Wilkerson, who appears to have let himself go after the worst season of his career.
Wilkerson, who starred at Temple before the Jets took him in the first round in 2011, looked like he had been plucked from the nearest buffet, according to people in attendance.
One scout texted me a picture of a Goodyear blimp with an accompanying: “Sloppy.”
“He looked like a pedestrian with a huge gut,” another scout said. “I was shocked.”
Wilkerson’s lack of discipline and commitment came into focus during a forgettable season that included poor production, a benching and a world of embarrassment after he cashed in with a new blockbuster five-year, $86 million contract that included $36.75 million guaranteed at signing.
Less than a year after Wilkerson posted rehab videos on the treadmill with the hope of landing a big payday with the Jets or anyone else, he evidently hasn’t attacked this offseason with the same fervor. Wilkerson’s official weight last season was 315 pounds. It’s unknown how much he’s tipping the scales at now.
Wilkerson declined comment through a team spokesman to discuss his weight, conditioning or workout regimen, an ominous sign to say the least.
More than 40 NFL talent evaluators were on hand for Temple’s Pro Day. Wilkerson didn’t make a favorable impression on any of the people that I touched base with over the past week.
One eyewitness simply said Wilkerson was “looking absolutely terrible.” When I pointed out that the defensive lineman has never been mistaken for Jack LaLanne, the person texted: “LOL He’s always looked terribly out of shape?”
The news should be disconcerting for Jets brass. Teams technically can’t communicate with players during this quiet period on the NFL calendar. The Jets offseason program at the team facility doesn’t begin until mid-April.
It’s a frightening notion for the organization to wonder how Wilkerson, who played last season with an ailing surgically repaired ankle, is actually taking care of his body right now.
The Jets effectively chose Wilkerson to be a part of their future rather than Sheldon Richardson, who is on the trade block. Richardson’s past off-field transgressions have been discussed ad nauseam, but Wilkerson hasn’t exactly been a model pro, either.
Todd Bowles benched Wilkerson for the first quarter of a game for the second consecutive season for repeated tardiness to meetings/practice. The final straw: Wilkerson skipped a team walkthrough in October after a night of revelry to celebrate his birthday. The team had a birthday cake waiting for him after that practice.
The NFL Network reported last season that Bowles actually met with Wilkerson about his unacceptable behavior before the team inked him to a long-term deal. Wilkerson reportedly “vowed to behave” before breaking team rules again.
Wilkerson further embarrassed the organization by announcing during the final week of the regular season that the Jets training staff didn’t have a plan to properly manage his leg/ankle injury at the outset of the season.
Wilkerson, who had his fewest sacks (4 ½) since his rookie year, was a nonfactor for the better part of four months. After saying very little about the impact of his off-season leg surgery and accompanying tendon issue near his ankle, Wilkerson’s decision to throw the trainers under the bus wasn’t exactly received well by the team brain trust.
Now, the organization should be concerned about whether they bet on the right defensive lineman. Wilkerson’s contract makes him nearly impossible to trade this year. He’s taking up a team-high $18 million of salary cap space (with a fully guaranteed $14.75 million base salary).
The Jets could part ways after the 2017 season (his $16.75 million base salary in 2018 becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year), but the hope from the powers that be is that he’ll get on the straight and narrow path.
That path, of course, requires discipline. Players that don’t take care of themselves in the offseason typically don’t magically round into shape. Darrelle Revis was puffed up last summer — he was 20 pounds overweight (217) — and never recovered.
It’s time for Wilkerson be fully committed and earn his money this season. Maybe even hop on a treadmill and post a video.
Published at Thu, 16 Mar 2017 13:36:25 +0000