The Elephant in the Room
If you haven’t already figured it out, this could come as a shock to you: the New York Jets do not want to pay Muhammad Wilkerson. They didn’t want to do it last year, they don’t want to do it this year, and they certainly won’t do it next year. Here’s three reasons why:
They have his replacement: When the Jets took Leonard Williams with the 6th overall pick last year, many thought that Mike Maccagnan had drafted into a position of strength, the defensive line, and that he took the best player available. While those things might be true, he also took Williams to eventually be Muhammad Wilkerson’s successor. With Leonard looking like he could be the real deal, the Jets don’t need to shell out the $100 million contract that Wilkerson is probably looking for. The fact of the matter is that the big lineman out of Temple University is not as valuable to the Jets as he would be elsewhere. They are loaded on the defensive line with Snacks, who I believe will be brought back, Sheldon Richardson, and the aforementioned Leonard Williams. All of these guys are in their prime, or will be within the next few years.
They aren’t close: According to Jason La Canfora, the two sides have never gotten close to an agreement on a long term extension. He also states that the team and Wilkerson’s agent have barely spoken since contract negotiations broke down last year. Does this sound like an organization that wants to get a deal done? To me, it sounds like the Jets have already made up their mind on Wilkerson, and they are more than ready to perform a tag and trade if the opportunity presents itself. The last thing the Jets want is for Wilkerson to be playing this season on the $15 million franchise tag for two reasons: First, that’s a big cap hit for a position that they are already strong in and second, that’s a signal that Wilkerson is a goner once next season is up and the Jets will be left empty handed. If the team has no intentions of signing Wilkerson to a long term deal, which all indications point to, then they need to tag him and ship him for a first round pick.
There are suitors: According to La Canfora who has been all over this situation, the Giants, Jaguars, and Raiders would all be interested in trading for Muhammad Wilkerson if he is made available. All three of these teams have major cap space for the 2016 season: Jaguars $73,312,314, Raiders: $72,851,440, Giants $52,573,688. Under the new 89% rule, these teams need to spend most of that salary cap money this offseason, so Wilkerson could get his $100 million deal from one of these three teams who could all use help on the defensive side of the football. All three teams finished in the bottom third of total defense with the Giants finishing in dead last.
Wilkerson has been an incredible professional for his entire career as a Jet. Not once has he complained about his contract situation. He has played his position at the highest level, and should be rewarded for that. Unfortunately, he may never get that reward from the New York Jets.