Muhammad Wilkerson is still looking for a long-term deal from the New York Jets.
While much of the talk centering around free agency, has been reserved for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Wilkerson’s absence from the team is beginning to gain increased notice.
Wilkerson, a free agent, has kept his distance from the Jets for much of the offseason. Contract negotiations appear to be far apart between both sides. There’s a $15.7 million franchise tag, from the Jets, for Wilkerson, on the table. That’s a nice chunk of change, however, it’s not the long-term security Wilkerson’s looking for.
“It’s shocking. It’s frustrating,” Wilkerson said. “Because I feel like I’ve earned it and I deserve it. It would be different if I was just a mediocre player. I feel like each and every week I’m dominating and it’s showing. The stats speak for themselves. Basically, what more do I need to do? You know what I mean?”
The price may have recently went up for Wilkerson. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox received a six-year, $103 million extension, from the Philadelphia Eagles. The chances of Wilkerson settling for anything less than the deal Cox received would have to be slim to none.
There’s been no doubt about Wilkerson’s value to the Jets’ defense since they drafted him in 2011 with their first-round pick. He led the team with 12 sacks last season and earned his first Pro Bowl selection. The Jets, with Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson, are stacked on the defensive line. Wilkerson’s presence makes them an elite group. It also makes them an expensive group to hold onto.
Salary cap limitations have the Jets in a tight spot, as they’re reportedly only $3 million under the salary cap. Head coach Todd Bowles and General Manager Mike Maccagnan have a heavy task ahead with deciding who fits into their long-term plans.
The franchise tag on Wilkerso,=n would give the Jets an elite player and team leader for at least one more season. It’s a risky angle to play, if you’re the Jets, because there’s a very thin line between business and personal. Wilkerson, a native of Linden, New Jersey, is clearly frustrated from the what appears to be a lukewarm effort to come to the bargaining table with a deal he feels is appropriate.
“Do I feel that they want me back? As of right now, no,” Wilkerson said. “I don’t feel like they want me. I’m a talented guy. Everybody knows that. I feel like they’re going to get the best they can out of me and just let me go. That’s how I feel.”
It’s a feeling which may ultimately Wilkerson to finding another NFL team ready to compensate for his services.