New Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said at the scouting combine last week that "we'd like to be really aggressive and see (if) we can be in every conversation" once free agency gets underway.
Meet the new Packers boss, who couldn't sound any more different than the old Packers boss Ted Thompson's annual goal was seemingly to see if the Packers could avoid every free-agent conversation not involving one of their own.
Now comes word from NFL Media's Ian Rapoport that New York Jets DT Muhammad Wilkerson will make his first free-agent visit to — wait for it — Green Bay. Although Gang Green announced Wilkerson's release last week, just two seasons into a mammoth five-year pact, it's expected to become official Monday, according to Rapoport.
Wilkerson, 28, laid down in almost Albert Haynesworth-esque fashion after collecting his 11th-hour deal two years ago that included nearly $37 million in its first two seasons. It was at least partially understandable in 2016, when Wilkerson managed 4.5 sacks after breaking his leg the previous December. But last season Wilkerson was not only a dog on the field, he was noncompliant off of it, disciplined by coach Todd Bowles on more than one occasion for arriving late to team meetings.
Wilkerson, the former first-round pick, had 28.5 sacks from 2013-15, when he was one of the game's more feared defenders and key cog on a devastating D-line alongside Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson.
Well, the Packers have the makings of something special up front, too, with Pro Bowler Mike Daniels and ascending 2016 first-rounder Kenny Clark. Could Wilkerson be the piece that puts the unit over the top and lessens some of the concerns Green Bay has regarding its aging and underperforming edge stable as new coordinator Mike Pettine takes over?
Pettine, of course, was the Jets' defensive coordinator during Wilkerson's first two seasons and carries with him a reputation for being a strong motivator. This is a potentially fascinating fit and early sign that Gutekunst wasn't mincing words when he said — and we're paraphrasing — that the days under Thompson of avoiding free agency like the plague are over.
The Packers have roughly $20 million in cap space, which is expected to rise once they tend to the bloated contracts of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Wilkerson isn't commanding another lucrative multi-year deal; it was the incentive of a contract year that likely helped coax his career year in 2015. This reported visit makes a lot of sense on multiple levels, even if we're still trying to wrap our head around the idea of a big-ticket free agent visiting Green Bay making sense on multiple levels.