Yes I know its pretty damn late, but this topic has been nagging at me for weeks now and I gotta say something about it. The New York Jets continued their offseason-spending spree this in early June, reworking the contract of star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The team, according to ESPN.com, had promised Marshall after he was traded that they would retool his contract, giving him a chance to make $2.7 million extra over the next two seasons. The deal is full of performance incentives that can make Mr. Marshall a very rich man over the next three years and its all unicorns and butterflies over in Brandon’s World for now.
With the restructuring of Marshall’s contract, the Jets have topped off one of the busiest off-seasons in recent memory, with the team handing out new contracts to everyone and anyone not named Muhammad Wilkerson. That fact right there has a lot of fans very worried.
Now before everyone goes crazy, remember this: the Jets have Wilkerson under contract this season at a price of $7 million. That’s a very reasonable price to be paying for most quality players in the NFL, but Wilkerson isn’t just another quality player. Since joining the Jets in 2011, the player Jets teammates refer to as “Mo” has dominated his position. Since 2012 he has been elected to 3 straight All-Pro teams, and many consider him one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the league (obviously behind J.J. Watt).
So what do we know? We know how good Wilkerson is and being only 25 years old (26 in October) he will only get better. We know that the Jets have him under contract for this season at a bargain price of $7 million – which is way under his market value. We also know that the Jets are absolutely stacked across the defensive line. However, what we don’t know is Mo’s future with your beloved New York Jets. There are many possible scenarios that could play out over the next year or so, but only two seem to make sense; 1) a franchise tag leading to a contract extension or 2) the team will cut ties with Mo and let him test free agency. I break them down below.
Scenario #1: Franchise Tag and/or Contract extension
After this season the New York Jets have options when it comes to Muhammad Wilkerson and his contract. The first option and most likely route the Jets will take would be to apply the franchise tag on him. By doing so, the Jets would be paying Wilkerson around $15 million in salary. What makes this contract situation so different then when the Jets were negotiating with Darrelle Revis in 2010 is that Wilkerson doesn’t have a clause in his contract that prevents franchise tags like Revis did. With the franchise tag applied, the Jets would be able to take their time with Wilkerson’s contract extension as the team currently has all of the leverage in these negotiations (Drafting Leonard Williams has a lot to do with this. More on this below).
Scenario #2: Cut ties
The Jets currently have all of the leverage in Wilkerson’s contract negotiations. After Leonard Williams fell to the Jets with the 6 pick, general manager Mike Maccagnan decided to pick the guy who many people believed was the best player in the draft shattering any leverage that Wilkerson had at the negotiating table. In getting Williams, who plays the same position as Wilkerson, the Jets now have options. If the Jets play this year out without giving Wilkerson a contract extension, they can cut ties with him after the season.
By allowing Wilkerson to hit free agency, the Jets would be left with Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Leonard Williams as their defensive line, and one cannot complain about a unit of that caliber. This is all under the assumption that Williams pans out and becomes the player that many believe he will be. However, if Williams has an average to below average season, it would give the Jets more incentive to apply the franchise tag or resign Wilkerson rather than let him walk in free agency.
There are many different ways this can go in the next year or so with Muhammad Wilkerson. Only time will tell on whether or not the Jets will give their stud defensive end the elusive contract extension that he so rightfully deserves. As of right now they have shelves the talks as Mo has established himself as the bigger man and decided to not only show up to the Jets’ mandatory mini camp but he will supposedly be attending training camp later this summer as well. One thing is for certain though—Big Mo Wilkerson is going to get paid handsomely by some team over the next two years.