Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) lines up against Buffalo Bills tight end Matthew Mulligan (82) in the 1st quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets have their franchise tag ready to use if necessary but they have to be wise on which player is the highest priority on the team to retain at least for 2016.
The Jets have a big decision to make this off-season. A franchise tag is probably the most important decision a club will make, because a player’s contract is fully guaranteed with some exceptions. It will fully count against the cap, even in the case of being cut to make cap room.
There are two different tags. The non-exclusive tag allows a player to negotiate with other teams, and if he signs with another team, the Jets would receive compensation for that person. An exclusive tag gives the Jets the sole right to negotiate.
The CBA guarantees a non-exclusive tender “the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.” An exclusive tag on the other hand, “the average of the five largest Salaries in Player Contracts for that League Year as of the end of the Restricted Free Agent Signing Period 45 that League Year.”
The Jets have from February 22-March 12 to tender the players, and they will have to decide based on who they can re-sign and who they need.
Here are the top three players they could target for the franchise tag.
Next: 3. Chris Ivory
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs for first down during the first quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
Based on a projected cap of $154M, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry projects the running back number at $11.871M. That’s why the Jets may want to look elsewhere.
With that said, Ivory had his breakout season, despite slowing down toward the end. He was a crucial piece to all of the success the offense had.
They were able to set the passing and receiving records because of the run threat. If they think he can continue his upward climb, and they sign Wilkerson long-term, it’ll be worth it.
Next: 2. Damon Harrison
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Branden Albert (76) battles New York Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison (94) in the second half. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20 at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
2. Damon Harrison Whether or not the Jets tender Damon Harrison depends upon Wilkerson. He was key to the success of Wilkerson as he was also a vital part on the Jets’ defense.
Harrison took up blockers on the pass rush with ease and precision and he also was key to the Jets’ pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
He was a big part to the overall success of the Jets’ defensive line and merits a return next season. He even forced one of the 30 turnovers.
Harrison is a key player to sign and is very important to maintain the consistency that we’ve all seen from the Jets’ defensive line.
Next: 1. Muhammad Wilkerson
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) chases Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
1. Muhammad Wilkerson Wilkerson played all across the defensive line this season. There are two positions where he can be tagged, defensive end and defensive tackle.
Based on the projected $154M salary cap, there is a $2M difference for Wilkerson. Based on the projection, a defensive end will make $15.494M and a defensive tackle will make $13.368M.
Either way, if the Jets are unable to sign Wilkerson to a long-term deal, they have no choice but to tag him. He was the engine that made the defense go.
Wilkerson was the most integral part to the defense and must return in 2016 one way or the other. He led the team in sacks and was tied for sixth in the league as the Jets are in dire need of his services to maintain their pass rush.