Packers add Muhammad Wilkerson hoping to get the 2015 version instead of the 2017 one

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

A couple years ago, Muhammad Wilkerson received a five-year, $86 million deal after proving to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL in 2015. He never saw the last three years of that deal after things soured with the New York Jets.

Now, the Green Bay Packers will hope to get the player that Wilkerson was earlier in his career after they agreed to terms with him, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

Wilkerson became more trouble than he was worth in New York

The 305-pound defensive lineman was playing under the franchise tag with a lot to prove when he tallied 12 sacks during his Pro Bowl year in 2015. But complacency isn’t the only reason his production dropped in the last two years.

Wilkerson, 28, dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries while managing just eight sacks over the last two reasons.

But a rift between the team and lineman was a consequence of more than just his play on the field. He regularly arrived late to team meetings and sometimes missed them altogether, according to NJ Advance Media. Eventually, the Jets had enough and he was a healthy scratch for the last three games of the 2017 season.

If those problems follow Wilkerson to Green Bay, it could quickly make the signing a headache for the Packers.

Wilkerson’s talent makes it worth rolling the dice

Looking for a player capable of a double-digit sack season is hard enough. Finding a player who can do that and is also over 300 pounds is like searching for an NFL unicorn. Wilkerson can be that unicorn.

It’s been a couple years since he made that kind of impact, but if Wilkerson can stay healthy and return to form, he’s the type of talent that transforms an entire defensive line. He can stop the run, rush the passer, and create interior pressure that wreaks havoc and opens opportunities for other players.

That could be good news for Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, who may get help with some interior disruption that creates more sack opportunities.

Whether or not Wilkerson is able to turn back into the player who earned a blockbuster contract extension in the first place will determine whether or not the signing was worth making. But it’s not a terrible risk for a team that can use the help.