Packers Free Agent Target: Muhammad Wilkerson

Should the Packers be aggressive in pursuit of muhammad wilkerson if he becomes a free agent?

 

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By: Mark Prott

The hiring of new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine should bring optimism and excitement to the Packers fan base. While Pettine will not be able to fix everything, with the help of GM Brian Gutekunst, Pettine could put the pieces together to create a formidable defense.

Simply put, the 2018 defense needs more impact players if the Packers are serious about contending for the Super Bowl. Enter Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, still just 28 years old, has shown that he is capable of being one of the most dominating defensive lineman in the game. His 12 sack season in 2015 and 44.5 sacks total over a 7 year career prove he is a force to be reckoned with.

He also likely has played his last game with the Jets. Over the past two seasons Wilkerson’s play has not lived up to his five year, 86 million dollar contract signed in 2016. It’s why the Jets are willing to part ways.

Signing Wilkerson would be not be without risk.  But then again, a certain guy named Charles Woodson was also a big risk signing back in 2006 and we know how that turned out. Wilkerson also would not command nearly as large of a contract as he signed in 2016 on the open market anymore.

The fit with the Packers makes sense on multiple angles.

The Packers with a healthy Aaron Rodgers at the helm are almost a lock for the playoffs next season. And like it or not, it’s human nature that playing on a winning team would probably light a new fire under a player that’s been playing on an awful team the past two years. A change of scenery to a winning organization might be all that is needed for Wilkerson to regain dominating form.

Wilkerson would also be reunited with his old defensive coordinator. Pettine coached Wilkerson with the Jets from 2011-2012 and should know first hand what type of impact the 6’4 305 pound lineman could have in his defense.

“He can be a dominant inside rusher on third down and a dominant defensive end on early downs,” said Pettine in a 2012 interview. Sound like something the Packers’ defense could use? Look no further than what the signing of the 31 year old defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who recorded 14.5 sacks this season, did for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.

A defensive line including up and coming defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a Pro Bowler in Mike Daniels and Wilkerson would give the Packers a formidable trio in the trenches. Add in a selection of an outside rusher with the 14th pick in the upcoming NFL draft and suddenly the Packers’ pass rush and defense as a whole could become a strength.

Any spectator of the 2017 version of the Packers dreadful defense could legitimately argue that the lack of a consistent pass rush was the most glaring need on defense. Coverage is still important, but great quarterback play can still beat great coverage if given enough time. There is talent in the secondary, but the Packers desperately need a better pass rush.

The Packers decided coverage was their most important need in the 2017 NFL draft. They used their first 2 picks on Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both players have talent and potential, but their play on the field created little improvement over the 2016 defense. The pass rush was not addressed by Ted Thompson last off season. It will be up to his successor,  Gutekunst, who should make it his new number one priority.

The NFL Draft will and should always be the ultimate source of acquiring talent but free agency must be utilized. Gutekunst thankfully agrees. Potential impact players like Wilkerson will hit the open market soon. Then it will be time for the Packers new decision maker to put his words into action.