Muhammad Wilkerson was available to the media at his charity bowling event in New Jersey, and it was an opportunity to ask him about his current contract situation with the Jets.
Wilkerson is unsure if he will be attending minicamp next week under the cloud of contract uncertainty, writes Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter).
While Wilkerson did not give an explicit reason for skipping voluntary workouts, it can be assumed unhapiness with his contract was a major factor. Despite the uncertainty, Wilkerson is still hopeful that he will be able to come to terms on a long-term deal sooner rather than later, according to Cimini (via Twitter).
The former first-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft has made a legitimate case for himself as the second best 3-4 defensive end in the league, after the possibly immortal J.J. Watt. According to Pro Football Focus, Wilkerson graded out as the second-best at his position in 2012 and third-best in 2014 (subscription required). Watt finished first in each of the past three seasons.
What complicates his contract situation is the player who finished second in Pro Football Focus’ grades last season, Wilkerson’s teammate and fellow first-round selection Sheldon Richardson. Adding potential star Leonard Williams with the fifth-overall pick in this past NFL Draft hurt Wilkerson’ leverage even further.
The process has clearly taken its toll on his patience. Brian Costello of the New York Post reports Wilkerson’s frustration with the Jets organization in this matter, (via Twitter).
“I just thought you work hard on the field,” said Wilkerson. “Do what you got to do on and off the field and that’s how you’re supposed to get rewarded.”
Even with the frustration, Wilkerson was aware enough to admit he understands how the contract negotiations are difficult and is remaining positive about staying with the Jets, according to Costello (via Twitter).
Still, as a player who is among the first draft class that came into the league under the current rules that prevent rookies from doing much negotiation on their first contracts, Wilkerson is unfamiliar with what it is like to deal with an organization regarding his future with the team. Cimini writes that the former Temple standout is looking to sign a long-term contract (via Twitter).
“I guess it takes a long time,” said Wilkerson. “This is new to me, but hopefully something will get done soon.”