Ever since the Jets placed the franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson – and even before that – the defensive lineman has been viewed as a potential trade candidate. With Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams in line for extensions of their own within the next few years, the Jets will have to make a decision on which defensive linemen they want to keep long-term.
According to Tony Pauline at WalterFootball.com, the Jets appear to be at least exploring potential trade options for Wilkerson. Pauline says that “the word coming from Florida pro day” is that the Jets are shopping Wilkerson. However, Pauline cautions that whether or not the team will actually be able to find a suitable deal is another thing altogether.
Wilkerson, 26, enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2015, racking up a career-high 12 sacks and forcing three fumbles, to go along with 64 tackles. Arguably the best defensive player for the Jets last season, Wilkerson also earned his first Pro Bowl berth. However, he broke his leg during New York’s regular-season finale, and while that injury isn’t expected to sideline him at all next season, it may give potential suitors pause.
Additionally, having been franchised, Wilkerson is currently projected to earn a $15.701MM base salary in 2016. Any team trading for Wilkerson would presumably want to extend him beyond ’16, but that pricey franchise salary provides a guideline for what sort of money he’d be seeking on a long-term deal — it would be a very expensive proposition for a club to pay him that sort of money in addition to giving up trade assets for him.
The Jets will likely say they want Wilkerson in the mix for 2016 and beyond, and that could still end up happening, but as I noted late last night, comments from members of the organization hint that a trade remains a possibility. Owner Woody Johnson said on Monday that he wouldn’t be disappointed to see Wilkerson remain with the Jets for 2016, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for locking him up to a multiyear extension.
According to Pauline, the Jets would consider Gators defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard a potential draft-day target if they end up trading Wilkerson.
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