The former first-round pick who was released by the New York Jets on Monday will visit the Packers on Wednesday, a source told ESPN.com. The visit was supposed to take place on Tuesday but a winter storm in Green Bay delayed the visit, the source said.
The Jets informed Wilkerson last week that he would be released, but the move did not become official until Monday. The Packers called immediately to set up a visit.
Wilkerson has a connection to the Packers -- new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who ran the Jets' defense under head coach Rex Ryan from 2009 to 2012. Wilkerson, the 30th pick of the 2011 draft, played his first two seasons under Pettine.
Although defensive line isn’t the Packers’ biggest area of need on that side of the ball, new general manager Brian Gutekunst said last week at the NFL scouting combine that “you have to have a dominant pass rush.”
Wilkerson has 44 career sacks in 105 games but had only 3.5 last season and 4.5 in 2016. That followed his career-high 12-sack season in 2015. He also posted double-digit sacks in 2013 with 10.5. He signed a five-year, $86 million contract that included $37 million guaranteed at signing in 2016.
The 28-year-old was scheduled to make $16.75 million in 2018, a salary that would’ve been fully guaranteed had he been on the Jets' roster March 16. Wilkerson’s tenure with the Jets essentially ended when he was benched for the final three games because of disciplinary reasons, including being late for meetings.
However, Jets coach Todd Bowles said last week at the combine that Wilkerson was released for financial -- not disciplinary -- reasons. The Jets saved $11 million on this year’s salary cap with the move.
"It was a business decision; it wasn't disciplinary at all," Bowles said at the combine. "It was good for both parties. I'm disappointed for the team; I'm disappointed for him. Obviously, it didn't work out. I have a lot of love for Mo. I still think he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
Wilkerson’s visit is a sign that Gutekunst will indeed be more aggressive in free agency. In fact, Gutekunst used that term to describe his style last week at the combine. It doesn’t necessarily mean he will sign more players than his predecessor, Ted Thompson, did, but he wants to make sure the team is prepared to look at all options.
“We’d like to be really aggressive and see if we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said recently. “Now whether that leads to us ending up signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there. But we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try to improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market and it’s a little bit riskier market. So I think as my mentor and predecessor would say, you have to be very cautious as you enter that. But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”