Here's Why Muhammad Wilkerson is Worth Considering for Green Bay
Pete Carroll and John Schneider quickly built the Seattle Seahawks roster into a juggernaut, thanks in large part to Carroll’s then-recent experience recruiting as the head coach at USC. Carroll had studied, recruited and even played against most of the rookies in the NFL Draft.
As a result, the Seahawks identified late-round gems like cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Carroll’s knowledge gave Schneider and the front office a distinct advantage for a few years.
For the past five seasons, the Packers biggest coaching change on the defensive side was the addition of Jerry Montgomery in 2015. The rest of the staff stayed in tact. With few new voices, the front office relied on tape and scouts to build their defensive draft board.
The knowledge that new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine brings – whether from his time with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns – represents the first time in nearly a decade that a coordinator is new to the Packers organization.
Now, the front office has a new batch of voices who come from different backgrounds and experiences. Pettine will likely have the largest influence over the Packers’ approach in both free agency and the draft, but he’s consistently said he runs a flexible scheme that maximizes the strengths of his players.
Defensive line is a sneaky position of need for the Packers
When general manager Brian Gutekunst walked into his new office inside Lambeau Field and assembled a quick analysis of the Packers’ current roster, there’s no question that the defensive line enters 2018 as a position of strength.
It may come as a surprise then to consider Green Bay adding more high-end talent on the defensive line either through free agency or the draft. It shouldn’t.
On episode 71 of Blue 58, Jon discussed the defensive line:
Defensive line is always kind of a sneaky position of need. It’s one of those positions where you need a lot of bodies – like wide receiver, cornerback, offensive line, outside linebacker. These guys get chewed up a lot. They’re playing a lot of downs in a high-demand position in terms of what you’re doing physically. Guys can get beat up a lot. It doesn’t take much to tear down your depth on the defensive line.
If Gutekunst decides to ink a high-priced free agent like Muhammad Wilkerson or draft one of the high-profile defensive linemen, don’t be afraid.
There’s no quicker way to wreck an offense’s day than throwing out wave after wave of quality defensive line players. It never hurts to have more good guys at a position where you need a lot of bodies and you don’t carry a lot of bodies. In recent years, the Packers have taken maybe five or six defensive linemen into a season. If you lose one guy and another guy turns an ankle during a game – you’re quickly down to three healthy linemen. That limits what you can do from a personnel perspective.
Could the Packers really consider DL Muhammad Wilkerson?
Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson represents the first opportunity for Gutekunst to demonstrate a departure from the ideology of Ted Thompson.
Wilkerson was released by the Jets thanks to a contract that would have made him the fourth highest-paid defensive player in the league in 2018. While a productive player on the field, the 28-year old had a habit of being late for meetings and was suspended for a quarter in one game and an entire game in December.
Pettine was the Jets’ defensive coordinator in 2011 when Wilkerson was drafted, and made it no secret among the coaches and front office that he wanted New York to select him. According to the New York Daily News, Pettine created a “15-play highlight reel [from Wilkerson’s college tape] to serve as a reminder to everyone, including himself, that there was greatness in this player.”
Now well into his NFL career, Pettine could very easily create quite the highlight reel of Wilkerson. Or he could just go to YouTube:
Rarely does a player like Reggie White enter free agency – in his prime, a model teammate, and a locker room leader. Wilkerson is closer to what the average NFL free agent looks like: talented with baggage from injuries or off-field behavior.
Perhaps Pettine can stir and motivate Wilkerson to return to a form both on and off the field like he was in the early part of his career. If so, then there’s certainly merit to considering and signing the talented lineman.
The Packers can do good things with a lot of versatile defensive linemen, and there are plenty of good ones available either through free agency or the draft.