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#pounditFriday, December 4, 2020

Muhammad Wilkerson reportedly has ‘huge gut,’ has let himself go

The New York Jets put their trust into defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson last summer when they signed him to a five-year contract extension, and team officials have to be concerned that they made a horrible mistake.

Wilkerson played last season on a surgically-repaired ankle that gave him some trouble. It didn’t help that he was frequently late to meetings and benched for the first quarter of a game because of it. According to scouts who spoke with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, things have only gotten worse for Wilkerson since the season ended.

Wilkerson attended Temple’s Pro Day last week, and scouts told Mehta they were shocked by how out of shape he appeared to be. One scout compared Wilkerson to the Goodyear blimp and said he looked “sloppy,” while another said he looked “like a pedestrian with a huge gut.”

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?”

Wilkerson is a very big guy. His playing weight is 315 pounds, so he’s never going to look like a pass-rusher or outside linebacker. Still, you would think 40 scouts know the difference between an NFL defensive tackle and a fat guy. It sounds like the latter description fits Wilkerson more accurately at the moment.

Wilkerson will count a team-high $18 million toward the salary cap in 2017. He signed a five-year, $86 million deal last year after being franchise tagged, so the Jets clearly felt he was someone they could build around. Wilkerson’s 4.5 sacks in 2016 were the lowest of his career since he was a rookie in 2011. Toward the end of the season, he publicly criticized New York’s training staff for not adequately taking care of his ankle.

When you hear reports like this one about Wilkerson’s lack of commitment to the team, you have to wonder if the Jets regret giving the former first-round pick an extension. With the way the team looks heading into 2017, motivating Wilkerson to get back into shape may prove to be an impossible task.

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