With Muhammad Wilkerson nearing free agency and Sheldon Richardson about to become extension-eligible, the widely-held belief around the NFL is that the Jets can’t – or won’t – lock up both players to big, long-term deals. That fact isn’t lost on Richardson himself, who acknowledged in a conversation with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that either he or Wilkerson could be heading out of New York within the next year or two.
“We both understand the situation,” Richardson said. “It’s his hometown. If he gets [an extension] and I don’t — I got one more year left. You never know what happens after that. I wouldn’t mind him staying in his own hometown. If I get the boot, then so [be it]… but you never know. Mo’s having a Pro Bowl season right now. His résumé is going to be a little bit cleaner than mine.”
Richardson’s reference to Wilkerson’s résumé as “cleaner” – rather than “stronger” – hints at the the off-field issues that have plagued the 2013 first-round pick, who received a four-game marijuana suspension earlier this year, and was arrested on alleged misdemeanor traffic violations. Richardson may face another suspension for that arrest, though he tells Mehta that he thinks he’ll “have a strong case” for avoiding another ban.
More importantly, Richardson is intent on making a greater effort going forward to stay out of trouble off the field. The defensive lineman, who turns 25 on Sunday, tells Mehta that he was affected by the reaction of friends and family after his arrest this year.
“I want to set a good example,” Richardson said. “I made a few mistakes. I’m not a bad person. I just made two bad choices in my life. … My little cousins, nieces and nephews are telling me, ‘Come on, Sheldon. You’re the one in the family. You’re letting us down.’ I don’t consider myself a hero, but some kids do look at me that way. It got to me a little bit.”
Even if the Jets ultimately have to decide between Wilkerson and Richardson, the team doesn’t necessarily have to make that call during the coming offseason. The franchise tag is available for Wilkerson, and if the club exercises its fifth-year option on Richardson, he’d be under contract through 2017.