Muhammad Wilkerson will only be 26 years old when the 2016 season begins. And, if he’s medically cleared, he will be one of the best defensive ends in the sport. He is also available for the right price. But should the Bears pay it?
There are two sides to the Wilkerson coin. First, the Bears have to be willing to bail out of the 11th overall selection. There are not many foreseeable scenarios wherein the Bears don’t, at the very least, swap first round picks with the Jets (with the Bears throwing later picks into the mix as well). Second, the Bears will have to work out a deal with Wilkerson’s agent that is going to guarantee him no less than $40 million. Giving big money to defensive linemen is the biggest hit or miss prospect in the free agency game. For every Reggie White there’s been an Albert Haynesworth.
Would I make the deal? In a heartbeat. Wilkerson is the defensive piece that would immediately put the Bears over the top – a top tier defensive end with the ability to ruin games. Is that player available at 11? Maybe. But why play theoretical when the facts are right in front of you. Wilkerson has done it at the highest level and at 26 he’s going to be able to do it for the next 3-5 years. Is it a hefty price tag? You’re damn right it is. But spoiler alert, folks. Great players cost a lot of money. The reason the Bears have so much cap room is because they haven’t had any good players to pay for a long time.
Swap ones and try to convince the Jets to take an additional fourth. (It’ll probably cost a third but that’s fine.) Pay Wilkerson the contract he’s earned. Go from being a team expected to significantly improve in 2016 to a team that may very well contend for a division title or more.