2011’s first-round picks are eligible for contract extensions for the first time this offseason, but between now and May 3, teams will also have the opportunity to simply exercise a fifth-year option on those players for the 2015 season. That’s exactly what the Jets intend to do with defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who currently has one year remaining on his rookie deal, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
The Jets and Wilkerson have engaged in recent discussions about a long-term deal, but no agreement is on the horizon, a team source tells Mehta. With the team focusing almost exclusively on free agency and the draft over the next couple months, it’s unlikely that the two sides revisit a multiyear extension more seriously until the summer. Even then, Mehta’s source admits a long-term deal before the 2014 season is unlikely unless Wilkerson accepts a team-friendly contract. The 24-year-old may have unwittingly hurt his leverage last month when he suggested that he wouldn’t hold out if he didn’t receive a new contract this year.
Although the value of that 2015 option for Wilkerson has yet to be established, it figures to be fairly modest, perhaps in the neighborhood of $6MM. Given the impact the former 30th overall pick has had on the Jets’ defense, that will be a bargain for the team. Last season, Wilkerson recorded 10.5 sacks, forced a pair of fumbles, and even grabbed an interception. The Temple product placed eighth in Pro Football Focus’ rankings of 3-4 defensive linemen (subscription required), and played more snaps (1,067) than any of his competition.
The fifth-year option for 2011 picks becomes guaranteed for injury when it’s exercised, so the Jets will likely wait until closer to the May 3 deadline before picking it up on Wilkerson.