FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It has been a tremendous offseason for the New York Jets, first with the hiring of a no-nonsense head coach in Todd Bowles and a savvy general manager in Mike Maccagnan. Then with some big-name free agents and an NFL Draft that, on paper, is looking likely to return some dividends.
But memo to owner Woody Johnson: There are still two more key moves that need to be made.
Sign Muhammad Wilkerson to the long-term contract he deserves and bring back 'Fireman Ed.' Want to build on the optimism of fans? Do those two things to seal the deal.
This offseason, other defensive linemen with similar productivity to Wilkerson have earned some big-money contracts, placing the impetus on the Jets to belly up to the bar and pay their former first round pick. Wilkerson has been beyond productive and reliable for the team, putting up the kind of numbers as that of a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment and doing so on some pretty bad teams.
He is low-key, especially compared to some of his defensive counterparts, but he is still an All-Pro and over the past two years has been ranked among the top 100 players in the league according to the NFL Network. Wilkerson deserves a raise and to be a part of the Jets future after being a part of the horrid past of the past four years, through no fault of his own.
Pay the man Woody.
Wilkerson is the consummate pro, the type of player who brings a lunch pail mentality to the locker room every week. He does the dirty work along the defensive line while bringing production. And given the recent headaches of Sheldon Richardson, suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and skipping offseason workouts, wrapping up Wilkerson is huge for the future of this team.
And for a franchise that has let go of too many promising players in their prime, making sure that Wilkerson, a kid from New Jersey, goes up in that 'Ring of Honor' someday is huge for this fanbase. He has earned the right to be here and has played like he wants to be a Jet for life.
Get him inked up Woody.
But just as big for this fanbase is getting 'Fireman Ed' back. Remember that Ed Anzalone left his role as the leader of the “J-E-T-S” chant in 2012 because of intimidation and altercations with fans, taking out the frustration of losing seasons on this most visible of fans. Since then, Anzalone is still a fan, still goes to games, still lives and breathes the green and white. He's just not on the scoreboard, whipping fans into a frenzy.
And while the Jets definitely have tried to enhance the atmosphere around MetLife Stadium the past couple of years, it isn't the same without 'Fireman Ed' leading it. The chant isn't the same without him.
Now with a team that might get some wins on the field, after re-signing Wilkerson the next priority should be making sure that Anzalone comes back. He's dropped hints about a possible return to that prominent role in turning the stadium into a '12th Man.'
Get on the phone Woody and make that call. Get Anzalone back. Take the impetus.
Make sure that Jets fans are fully engaged this season, helping this team to some wins. No more days where Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers faithful outnumber and outvoice Jets fans in their own stadium. Getting Anzalone back is key to creating something special this year, that magical vibe that can push a team when the going gets tough – and it will surely get tough at some points this year.
Get 'er done Woody.