Once touted as a great defensive end having a knack for playing instinctive defense against the run and an effective ability for getting after the opposing quarterback, the Jets have released Muhammad Wilkerson. The last remaining member of the “SONS of Anarchy”—a fan-given name for the Jets defensive line that included defensive tackle Damon Harrison, DE Sheldon Richardson and Wilkerson himself— is hitting the road after he signed a monstrous five-year extension with Gang Green in 2016.
Despite slugging through a few inconsistent seasons in terms of production, Wilkerson has shown the ability to be a disruptive Pro Bowl player (as evidenced by his 2015 season). Perhaps the right scheme fit and a one-year prove it deal could motivate the New Jersey native to return to form? Regardless, his career will continue elsewhere.
Here are some potential landing spots for Wilkerson:
This might be one of the most obvious destinations for Wilkerson given that he spent his first two years in New York under current Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Sutton’s defensive scheme also fits Wilkerson’s 3-4 skillset. The Temple product had a nose for turnovers during his second year with Sutton and scored his only career touchdown during his second season with the current Chiefs defensive coordinator.
The Chiefs could offer a sizeable one-year deal, and the need for Wilkerson is definitely there. However, Sutton is not the only pull-factor for the 28-year-old defensive lineman. With Bennie Logan and Jarvis Jenkins set to become free agents this offseason, that leaves the Chiefs with Chris Jones and Rakeem Nunez-Roches as the only cheap and reliable options at the position.
The Raiders defense needs an immediate impact player and Wilkerson can help one of the unit’s only bright spots, the pass rush.
While it is still unknown what defensive scheme new head coach Jon Gruden will implement, the hiring of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther suggests that the Raiders defense will run a 4-3 scheme. However, Wilkerson is versatile enough to play in that scheme as he played some defensive tackle during his second season with the Jets.
There also seems to be some internal recruiting coming out of Oakland, with linebacker Bruce Irvin asking for Wilkerson’s Instagram handle on Twitter.
The edge rusher draft class this year is lacking in first round talent and that might prove problematic for teams with pressing needs at the position. However, defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s friendly defensive scheme could help Wilkerson find his way back to the Pro Bowl. Noah Spence’s inconsistency as a pass rusher, Robert Ayers’ age and William Gholston’s lack of production are all factors that could propel Wilkerson into the starting lineup on a team that desperately needs to generate more pressure.
Despite turning in abysmal records season after season during the John Fox era, the defense was always one of the more welcome surprises out of the last few Bears teams. However, the defensive line needs some work as it was ranked 30th in the league in adjusted line yards-per-carry allowed to opposing running backs, per Football Outsiders’ metrics. Wilkerson would drastically improve that even as a rotation player and the Bears have some money to spend now that Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah is off the market.