Even though for the New York Jets, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson may have been selected as the 39th best player in the NFL last year, he still gets no respect by the organization.
In case you missed the episode of The NFL Top 100 Players of 2015, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson of the New York Jets was selected as the 39th best player on the list. While that is an incredible accomplishment, it seems like the Jets hasn’t really recognized it. Because if they had, Wilkerson would’ve already been signed to a long-term contract extension by now.
There is no other way around this, the Jets poorly managed this situation and if they handled it correctly, would be in a much better position. So the first question on the docket is how long has Wilkerson been “negotiating” with the Jets?
The answer is a little more than two years, so lets ask this rhetorical question, how much would the Jets have paid if they ponied up two years ago? The answer will scare you after fans saw how much defensive tackle Fletcher Cox just received from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wilkerson was drafted way back in the 2011 NFL Draft and the best comparison to make would be another player from that very draft. Defensive end Cameron Jordan was selected six picks ahead of Wilkerson in the first round of that draft.
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Before we get into the specifics of money, are the two players comparable in terms of relative major statistics?
Lets take a look:
240 combined tackles, 39 sacks, and six forced fumbles
302 combined tackles, 36.5 sacks, and nine forced fumbles
So for arguments sake, there numbers are nearly identical, with the same amount of years in the NFL. Jordan signed a long-term contract at the beginning of last summer, a five-year deal for $55M dollars, with $33M+ guaranteed, and a $16M signing bonus.
If the Jets were smart, they would have immediately signed him to a similar deal and moved on. Especially since the Jets had a record-breaking amount of cap space to use on whatever they pleased.
Instead, the Jets continued to negotiate tough and make Wilkerson prove he was that kind of player. So Wilkerson simply went on to have a career year in nearly every major defensive category.
Even though on the surface it appeared the Jets had a successful first season under the tutelage of first year head coach Todd Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan, they didn’t. They blew it big time and here’s the reason why.
As alluded to earlier with the link to Cox’s new deal, he signed for six years for north of $100M with over $60M guaranteed. In comparison to Jordan’s deal, the Jets cost themselves over $50M on the deal as a whole.
So while Wilkerson continues to get recognized by the rest of the league, notching his first Pro Bowl of his career as well last season, he continues to get disrespected by his own team. The same team mind you, that he grew up less than 30 minutes away from.
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates his sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The same team that he has given his blood, sweat and tears for without complaints, Wilkerson has been a quiet leader for this ball club and has led by example. His leadership clearly sets the tone for the younger players on the roster.
While the Jets continue to twiddle their thumbs, they’ve already cost themselves millions of dollars and aren’t left with many options. Cox didn’t just set the bar for him, he set the floor, and Wilkerson didn’t hide that fact when he broke his silence to Brian Costello in an exclusive article for the New York Post:
“I think he’s a great player. Do I feel like I’m better than him? Yes,” Wilkerson said. “Not to be cocky, it’s just a confidence thing. Everybody in the league that plays feels like they’re the best player at their position. If you ask any NFL player, they’re going to say they’re the best at their position.
“I feel like I’m better than him and whatever [his deal is] I deserve that or better.”
Of course Wilkerson should feel like he’s better than Cox, because he is, his stats tell the story. Wilkerson’s career numbers eclipse that of Cox in every major statistical category. It seems like a messy divorce is inevitable at this point, if the Jets want to keep Wilkerson they’ll have to swallow their ego and pony up to their own mistake.
But more likely than not, Wilkerson will inevitably end up on another team, the Jets are going to use the franchise tag again next season. Which means that a potential tag and trade deal would have to be worked out next season.