New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson Facing Make-or-Break Year

Despite rebuilding, the New York Jets face a big year for Muhammad Wilkerson and the man who wrote his contract, Mike Maccagnan.

New York Jets fans all understand the plan for 2017. The older, high-priced veterans are gone, and in their place are young players. The team has a three-way battle at quarterback coming up. Despite the fact that the coach insists that they aren’t rebuilding (per the NY Post), that is exactly what the Jets are doing. Clearly, however many wins they collect in 2017 are secondary to seeing if they have a quarterback in Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg, subsequently setting up for 2018.

However, it is a big year for one remaining high-priced veteran. In fact, one could call it a “make-or-break” year for him. In some circles he is known as “Big Mo,” but he is known to all as Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson’s frustration over his contract was well-documented. In 2015 he kept himself out from some voluntary workouts. Prior to the 2016 season, he was given the franchise tag and wasn’t thrilled about it. On deadline day, he signed a five-year contract worth $86 million, including $53.5 million guaranteed (per Spotrac). Despite breaking his leg on the final day of the 2015 season, Wilkerson finally got the big deal he had been waiting for.

He responded by posting his worst season since 2012. Wilkerson was only able to manage 48 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He simply didn’t make the impact that New York Jets fans had been used to seeing. Maybe his leg hadn’t fully healed, but only he knows. What’s clear, however, is that he must have a big year in 2017. If he doesn’t, his days in the green and white will come to an end.

As Rich Cimini of ESPN explained, New York can get out of his lucrative contract after the 2017 season, as no more of his salary is fully guaranteed. They can save $17 million if he is designated a June 1 cut by the third day of the league year. If not, his base salary becomes guaranteed. If Muhammad Wilkerson cannot prove his worth by rebounding in 2017, count on him being out the door after the year ends.

However, don’t forget the ramifications for the man that wrote the contract, Mike Maccagnan.

Maccagnan has taken the team in a new direction. After the John Idzik era, a general manager that understood the salary cap but not players, Maccagnan brought a scout’s influence. He understands football talent.

However, he isn’t great with the contracts, and has been unlucky with his long-term investments. His major investments to date have been Darrelle Revis, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson. Revis is gone two years into his contract. The second year of the “Fitzmagic” years ended almost comically bad. He went from being beloved to basically hated in one year.

And third was Wilkerson. He has already responded with a bad year. Now he is one year removed from his injury. If Wilkerson doesn’t look like his old self, it will reflect very badly on Maccagnan’s judgement. Cimini put it best:

A general manager doesn’t get to keep spending his owner’s millions unless he starts hitting on some of these deals.

This would put Maccagnan’s record with large investments at 0-3. It could be his last chance. And if Mike Maccagnan lost his job, a new general manager likely wouldn’t want Todd Bowles around. Wilkerson holds his future in his hands, and potentially the future of his bosses all. 2017 will be very important for both the player and, in turn, the Jets as a whole.

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