Yes, another post about Mo Wilkerson. He’s on everyone’s lips today as he visits the Green Bay Packers in what will likely be the first of many speed dating visits around the NFL.
My colleague Sean Blashe has an excellent article from earlier today on why the Packers should get Wilkerson to sign on the dotted line and beef up the Packers’ defense. Yes, Gutekunst has gone on the record stating he wanted to make some bold moves in free agency in the offseason so that the Packers could come out swinging opening weekend in September. But here is the counterpoint article. Without going into the old school, stereotypical discussion of what constitutes Packers People, let’s cut to the chase and discuss whether Mo Wilkerson is worth the risk.
Quite frankly, there’s a reason the Jets cut him at the end of February. For me, I’m not sure if these detractors can be overshadowed by performance on the field. The risk to benefit ratio may just be too high in my opinion.
Are his behaviors conducive to a tight and cohesive defense, or would be be an added agent of chaos?
I think its important to keep in mind that he was benched for part of the December 3 game against the Kansas City Chiefs because he was late to the team meeting the day before. You know, that last run through before an actual game? Kind of important as you install your defense and discuss specifics. I’d be more magnanimous about the whole incident, but it appears to not be an isolated event. He was benched all together and did not travel with the Jets to the game against the Saints a few weeks later for the exact same reason.
And if you look further back in his career, you start to see a pattern emerge. It was one of many episodes of tardiness or absence during meetings. Per reporter Connor Hughes, there were five instances last season where Wilkerson was late or didn’t bother to show up.
But this tardiness isn’t something new. This is a pattern that dates back to 2015. He’s been benched for a quarter in 2015 and 2016 for not tardiness to meetings.
Quite frankly this doesn’t scream amazing work ethic. It is a glaring billboard advertising behavioral issues where a player thinks he is above the rules. Late once, you get fined. Getting suspended three years in a row, and you have a very set pattern. When you look at the big picture, it’s no surprise that the Jets didn’t want to pay him the guaranteed $16.75 Million had had coming this year and sent him packing.
Couple that with his mediocre performance over the past two years. Eight combined sacks, one interception and a single forced fumble in two years (yes, it may still be better that the numbers many Packers players were putting up last year) don’t exactly instill confidence in his abilities. For his asking price, we already have those types of statistics on the roster. Not sure if that type of performance is worth something north of $16 Million.
Yes, Mike Pettine was his coach when he was putting up enormous numbers. But would Pettine be enough of a DE whisperer to reign in Wilkerson’s problems, or would Mo be rolling into 1265 whenever he felt like it because that’s what he’s used to doing? Not to get into the Packer People thing, that isn’t exactly Lombardi Time where the expectations (and clocks on site) expect things to run 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
And is he still the Muhammad Wilkerson that is capable of pulling down double digit sacks in a season? Has that Mo existed since he broke his leg in the season finale in 2016 as well as nursed shoulder and toe injuries since that time? Or is that Wilkerson come and gone and all the Packers will get is a worn out version of that former beast?
Needless to say, if I weigh the benefits of adding Mo Wilkerson to the roster and add all of his pains in the butt on the other side of this imaginary teeter totter, it appears the PITAs are starting to tip the balance unfavorably. Yes, everyone sees his past success and immediately jumps to the Packers signing him hoping he will be the piece of the defensive line puzzle that the team has been lacking that will click into place. But I think it is equally important to look at what is beginning to be a multi-year history of noncompliance and a complete disregard not just for common courtesy but also respect for fellow teammates and coaching staff. Perpetual tardiness, on the surface, does not seem like that big of a deal.
But therein lies an attitude where one is above the rules, that one is more important that others and one really doesn’t care what the leaders think or care. That isn’t a team player. That is a locker room cancer in the works. That doesn’t instill confidence, but could become a sticking point if that pattern carries over to Green Bay. The Packers don’t need a player that is going to phone it in (they already tried that with Martellus Bennett last season.) They need a powerhouse DE that has an unwavering work ethic start begins in the OTAs and doesn’t stop until the last snap is played at the end of a season.
I’m not convinced Mo Wilkerson is a good match in Green Bay.