NY Jets: Preparing for next step with Muhammad Wilkerson
The NY Jets have franchise tagged defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and make the next step in deciding what to do with their versatile leader. Now what’s next?
Just in the nick of time ahead of the franchise tag deadline, the Jets have franchise tagged their versatile defensive star in Wilkerson. It was only a matter of time before the Jets decided to inevitably tag arguably their best player.
Outside of the possibility of still signing a long-term deal to keep Wilkerson in a Jets uniform for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to predict exactly what will go down between now and July 15th which is the last day he has to sign his franchise tender. If he doesn’t, he’ll simply play for the Jets in 2016 and after that is completely up to him.
But now that the formality is out of the way, it’s now time for the next step in the process. The Jets now have to figure out the future of their talented defensive line. This franchise tag was a domino effect, by tagging Wilkerson it now puts Damon Harrison in limbo with his future in the Jets organization.
Despite general manager Mike Maccagnan’s soft claims of considering tagging Harrison, he now must figure out how to keep him before he possibly gets lured away by other teams. Harrison on the open market is bad news for his chances on remaining with the Jets.
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The Jets had no other choice but to tag Wilkerson amid the fruitless negotiations that have taken place over the last year.
Wilkerson was never going to see the light of the free agency period with the potential of the Jets getting nothing in return outside of a compensatory pick.
So the Jets now have their backs against the wall, Wilkerson will count for $15.7 million in 2016 against the cap. The two sides have until mid-July to hammer out a long-term deal, but realistically they’ve had much longer than that to work out a deal and they’ve been unable to do so thus far.
The maneuver that has been discussed the most as of late is the potential of a tag-and-trade scenario in which the Jets ship off Wilkerson in exchange for a multitude of picks/players in a perfect world scenario. Maccagnan has a lot of tough decisions to make there’s no question, but he has to find a way to keep Wilkerson long-term.
Wilkerson has been a model citizen since being drafted 30th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s a home-grown talent who has been a face of the franchise for the green and white. Leonard Williams was fantastic as a rookie and Sheldon Richardson is a young budding talent along the defensive line though with some character concerns.
It makes sense why you’d attempt to trade one of your star defensive linemen to improve other parts of the team, but Wilkerson shouldn’t be the guy to go. Wilkerson is young, he’s a leader and he has been a workhorse for the Jets as he is only going to get better.
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
There’s a lot of unknowns in the NFL, if you trade Wilkerson you get a couple of draft picks (unproven commodities) while on the other hand if you keep Wilkerson you have a Pro Bowl player, one of the best defensive linemen in the league and you keep one of your leaders on the team.
The fact of the matter is the Jets have had this young defensive line together for the last couple seasons and it hasn’t amounted to a playoff appearance yet. The Jets should look to keep Wilkerson no matter what the cost and find a way to make it work.
It was mentioned before how this move is a domino effect and that rings true if you sign him long-term. If a player is drafted and he works hard and makes plays for your team and does all the right things on and off the field and you sign him, you’re showing other Jets on the team and future free agent acquisitions that if they work hard they’ll get paid for it down the line.
It’s time for the Jets to lay down the groundwork for this new regime and show that these aren’t the “same old Jets” and that this team is different than years past. Then after you sign Wilkerson long-term you can quickly turn your attention to bringing Harrison back and according to Harrison, he’s not chasing money.
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Consider this a last ditch effort to the football gods, hoping the Jets’ brass and Wilkerson’s agents can come to a mutual agreement. Wilkerson has the potential to be one of the greatest Jets in franchise history, to make that happen they’ve got to get pen to paper. The clock starts now ladies and gentlemen.