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NY Jets: Coples Therapy

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

In April of 2015 newly appointed Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan chose to exercise the 5th year option on defensive end/outside linebacker Quinton Coples. The option, for a cost of approximately $7.8 million, would kick in for the 2016 season, assuming Coples was still on the Jets roster at that time. Coples was coming off a season where he had registered a career high 6.5 sacks, and his career seemed to be on the rise.

Six months later, by October, 2015, Coples had become an afterthought in the Jets’ defense. He registered just six tackles and zero sacks through the first four games of the 2015 season, then barely saw the field after that. On November 23, 2015, the Jets cut Coples, thereby terminating his 5th year option. Although Coples clearly wasn’t a fit in new head coach Todd Bowles’ defense, cutting the former first round pick still came as a bit of a surprise. Why was he cut before the end of the season? One simple reason: guaranteed money. The 5th year option is guaranteed for injury, meaning if Coples suffered a serious, season ending injury in 2015 his $7.8 million 2016 salary would be guaranteed, something the Jets were unwilling to risk for an unproductive player. So they lanced the boil and cut Coples shortly after the trading deadline passed and it became clear there was no trade market for Coples. Call it Coples Therapy for the 2015 Jets.

Two years later another unproductive defensive player who used to be a factor as a pass rusher presents a similar dilemma. Muhammad Wilkerson was once very productive. He hasn’t been that in a long time. Wilkerson’s $16.75 base salary is not guaranteed for performance in 2018. It is, however, guaranteed for injury. That makes his situation analogous to Coples in 2015. If Wilkerson suffers a serious, season ending injury this year his entire 2018 base salary will become guaranteed, and the Jets will see a potential $11 million+ in 2018 cap space go down the drain, wasted on a player clearly not worth anything close to that number.

The time has come for the Jets to protect themselves from Wilkerson. In the extremely unlikely circumstance that Wilkerson can be traded prior to the October 31 trade deadline the Jets need to move him. If, as seems all but certain at this point, Wilkerson has no trade value, then the Jets need to take measures to protect themselves from this relationship turned toxic. Wilkerson needs to be benched immediately to protect against the possibility of injury. And as soon as the trade deadline passes, the Jets need the benefit of some Coples Therapy. It is time to part ways; Mo needs to go. The risk of losing $11 million+ in cap space is too much to put on the line on the off chance he suddenly revives his sinking career. Wilkerson, barring a miracle involving an enormous turnaround in his level of play over the last ten games of the 2017 season, will not be a Jet in 2018. There is very little to be gained, and $11 million+ to be risked, by waiting until the end of the season to recognize that reality and cut him.