July 23, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets player Muhammad Wilkerson arrives for training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
Clearly Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t in the long term plans of the New York Jets, so with that being said let’s analyze the top 5 trade scenarios that would be viable.
It’s become an unfortunate reality that one of the Jets’ brightest stars destiny isn’t foretold in green and white. Wilkerson, despite growing up within a rock throw of the Jets’ training facilities, will more likely than not be playing for another franchise inevitably.
With that reality setting in, it’s time to analyze what the trade market could potentially be for the Pro Bowl defensive lineman. We saw the Jets make a similar decision with another star in Darrelle Revis several years ago that netted the franchise a first round draft selection in Sheldon Richardson and another conditional mid-round pick.
Could the Jets score a similar package? Let’s discuss in detail the top five trade options for Wilkerson including one that was just thankfully a rumor.
Next: 5. Hitting two birds with one stone
Dec 17, 2015 St. Louis, MO, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
5. Hitting two birds with one stone
A lot of the Jets faithful have let it be known that they’re infatuated with a certain quarterback from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that may or may not be had for the right price. Personally, Mike Glennon isn’t the answer for the Jets but a trade between both teams for Wilkerson might happen.
If you’re a statistician, the touchdown to interception ratio looks nice with 29 touchdown passes and only 15 interceptions. A near 60% completion percentage and a respectable QBR seems like an intriguing proposition. The Jets would love to gather a treasure trove of draft picks in return for Wilkerson, what team wouldn’t? He is worth his weight in gold.
The problem with this scenario that has been brought up by the Jets contingent is that the Buccaneers already invested $98m dollars in Gerald McCoy. The Buccaneers might not feel apt to turn around and give Wilkerson a similar deal and invest that much more money in the trenches.
So many Jets fans have brought this trade scenario up for conversation, but it just really doesn’t seem that feasible. Plus on top of all of this, Glennon is reportedly commanding a second or third round pick and the Jets only have six picks in this year’s draft. The green and white would be better served letting Geno Smith and Bryce Petty battle it out than giving up even more picks for someone else.
Next: 4. Traded to a team with tons of finances
Jan 28, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars gives instructions to a player during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
4. Traded to a team with tons of finances
What makes the most sense is Wilkerson ending up with a team that can afford him (similar to Revis going to Tampa on a $96M deal). With that in mind, the teams with the most cap space currently in the NFL according to Spotrac.com are the San Francisco 49ers ($56M+), the Jacksonville Jaguars ($54M+) and the Cleveland Browns ($36M+).
The commonality among all these teams is a need along the defensive line and they all could possibly entertain a blockbuster trade for Wilkerson. The Jaguars invested a lot of money this offseason in their defensive line and seem like the most likely destination. While the Browns and 49ers are in the earlier stages of a total rebuild, at least the Jaguars’ roster seems NFL Playoff ready, well more so than the other teams in consideration.
Here is ESPN’s very own Rich Cimini’s thoughts on moving Wilkerson:
“I spoke to officials from four different teams at the owners meetings, and they all said they’d be surprised if the Jets execute a tag-and-trade with Muhammad Wilkerson. “Next to impossible” was how one official described the chances of a deal happening. It’s not because teams doubt Wilkerson’s ability; it’s the price.
Any team that trades for the Pro Bowl defensive end would have to pay the player (figure at least $50 million in guarantees) and compensate the Jets. The consensus is that anything less than a first-round pick would be highway robbery.
So, basically, the Jets have a three-carat diamond ring and they’re trying to sell it to K-Mart customers. It’s not happening.”
It’s a lot harder to get a first round pick now especially with the new cap freedom in investing a first round pick. The Jets could potentially net a late first or an early second packaged with another conditional mid-round pick.
Next: 3. The rumored team that was just that...a rumor
Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) gestures as he runs off the field following a 22-19 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
3. The rumored team that was just that…a rumor
The NFL Free Agency period is crazy, that’s why the hashtag was coined #FreeAgencyFrenzy and a frenzy it was when a certain tweet came across many fans timelines on the Jets. There are over 50 different fake accounts of NFL Insider Ian Rapoport. All with the same profile picture and a slight variation on his Twitter handle.
It is easy to be fooled and that is exactly what happened when a fake Dom Cosentino account reported a trade between the Chicago Bears and the Jets. The “fake” trade had Martellus Bennett and a second-round pick headed to the big apple in exchange for Wilkerson.
To be honest, the trade was just crazy enough to be believable and that only continued to add fuel to the fire that is the Wilkerson trade speculation. But let’s take a look at that crazy trade as the Jets would have filled the hole at tight end and netted a second-round draft choice.
The problem with that deal is that Bennett is on last year of his deal (fear of one-year rental) and the draft choice isn’t that attractive. But fortunately for Jets fans, this rumor was simply that, just a rumor, until further notice. Of course since then Bennett landed in a New England Patriots uniform, so there’s that.
Next: 2. This option is so crazy it just might work
Nov 1, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) attempts to pass as St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) pressures during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
2. This option is so crazy it just might work
We talked about one potential Wilkerson for quarterback swap earlier, how about another? Call me the matchmaker, contestant number one is unhappy in his current relationship and wants a breakup bad. Unfortunately, he’s dating a needy girlfriend who refuses to let him go, it might take some negotiating for this young bachelor to find new love. Enter Colin Kaepernick who is ready for change in his life and the Jets could be the fit.
Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey needs an athletic quarterback who can spread the ball around and what better than a Jets’ offense that is currently loaded at the skill positions? Wilkerson, who carries a significant cap number with the franchise tag, wouldn’t be a problem for a team with ample cap space. In return, the Jets would receive Kaepernick’s deal that basically plays out to a year-by-year contract.
It becomes fully guaranteed (2016 season) very soon and the 49ers have to make a decision. This could be a perfect swap and in theory, the Jets would want some sort of draft compensation on top of it but the 49ers may not bite if they have to give anything else up.
It’s crazy, it’s ludicrous, but it just might work if both teams are willing to negotiate and if the price is right for both ball clubs. Wilkerson doesn’t want to leave, but the reality of the situation is the Jets have a surplus at the position and Wilkerson is perhaps their most attractive bargaining chip at the moment.
Next: 1. The most likely option
Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ole Miss Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (48) squares off in drills against North Carolina State Wolfpack offensive lineman Joe Thuney (44) during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1. The most likely option
Okay we got pretty crazy on this list, but after a lot of thought and consideration the most likely scenario could come on draft day. The 2016 NFL Draft will be full of a lot of uncertainty as there has been tons of draft busts and draft flops, but for Wilkerson the proof is in the pudding. Make no mistake about it, this guy is a Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
In theory you know what you’re getting so the Jets might float Wilkerson in front of the faces of the Tennessee Titans, the Browns or even the San Diego Chargers. Those just happen to be the first three teams on the clock come April 28th. Could the Jets offer the 20th overall pick and Wilkerson to jump into the top-three of this year’s draft?
Seems crazy but it’s actually a lot more viable than those other options. The Jets could take a chance on one of the top-two quarterbacks, take a franchise left tackle or maybe even take one of the most talented players in the entire draft in Jalen Ramsey. That might be the best option for the Jets to get the most bang for their buck in terms of the Wilkerson trade results. Anything can happen to a draft pick, but Wilkerson is proven talent.
For the Jets they’d exchange a player they really can’t afford for a young blue chip kind of player that could change the direction of this franchise faster than a New York minute. A top quarterback could potentially fill a void that has not been there since Joe Namath. A franchise left tackle could allow the Jets to re-work D’Brickashaw Ferguson‘s contract or cut him and create some more cap room. While Ramsey elicits memories of Deion Sanders in his prime, just imagine having a player of that magnitude in your defensive secondary.