Muhammad Wilkerson defends himself: ‘I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten’
Muhammad Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86 million extension with the New York Jets in 2015. To say the defensive end has not lived up to it would be an understatement, but he doesn’t see it that way.
While speaking with reporters on Wednesday for the first time since he was not permitted to travel with the team to New Orleans, Wilkerson defended the $37 million he has made over the past two seasons.
“I feel like I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten,” he said, per Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News.
When asked to elaborate, Wilkerson didn’t feel the need to go into detail.
“Because I feel like I’ve earned it,” he added.
Wilkerson signed his new deal coming off a 12-sack season. In the 28 games since, he has recorded just eight sacks. Making matters worse is that he has been benched numerous times for being tardy to meetings or missing them altogether. Despite that, Wilkerson feels he has been a leader for the Jets.
“I feel like I’m a leader because of the things I’ve done, you know, helping, you know, build this organization,” he said.
While Wilkerson has practiced in full this week, there’s a chance the Jets could make him inactive for the final two games of the season. The 28-year-old’s $16.75 million salary for 2018 is fully guaranteed only for injury, and New York could save $9 million against the cap by releasing him this offseason.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles said there was “nothing personal” about Wilkerson being benched in Week 15, but it seems obvious that the former first-round pick has worn out his welcome. Wilkerson met with some teammates on Monday to address his benching, and he didn’t mention anything about apologizing.
“If they respect me, they respect me,” he said. “If they don’t, they don’t. I understand, and I just got to move forward.”
All signs point to Wilkerson and the Jets going their separate ways this offseason, and you might be surprised to learn who they are interested in bringing back to help replace him.