New York Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has been one of the most productive defensive players in the league for a few seasons now. He’s been trying to get a longterm contract from the Jets for two years now, but the only offer he has on the table right now is a franchise tag that would pay him $15.7 million for the upcoming season. He is not happy about this!
Wilkerson spoke to reporters for the first time since last season, and he let loose on the Jets. From the New York Post:
“It’s shocking. It’s frustrating,” Wilkerson told The Post in an exclusive interview. “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?”
“Do I feel that they want me back? As of right now, no. I don’t feel like they want me,” Wilkerson said in his first public comments since last season. “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. Do I like that feeling? No. I’m a New Jersey guy, born and raised and would love to raise my family here.”
Wilkerson has a right to be angry. He’s been a rock on the Jets’ defensive line, and he just watched the Philadelphia Eagles throw a deal with $63 million guaranteed at defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. If Wilkerson were to accept the Jets’ franchise tag, he will end up earning less money over two years than Cox will earn from his signing bonus alone. Wilkerson has made Cox’s deal his starting price, telling the Post, “I feel like I’m better than him and whatever [his deal is] I deserve that or better.”
Wilkerson might be shit out of luck, though. The Jets have two other talented defensive lineman in Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, both of whom are younger than Wilkerson, who is also coming back from a broken leg. It’s unlikely the Jets will be willing or able to keep all three of them around with big contracts, and so Wilkerson is the likely odd man out. The Jets are probably perfectly happy to use the franchise tag to keep Wilkerson there this season, and then let him walk in 2017 while they lock up Williams and Richardson, and then find a young, cheap replacement for Wilkerson. As always, there’s no worse thing to be in the NFL than expendable.