The Jets will likely make one “last-ditch” attempt to sign franchise player Muhammad Wilkerson this week, a source close to the defensive end tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (video link). Still, as Garafolo adds, New York and Wilkerson’s camp have been at odds over his value for the better part of two years, so a deal coming together at the eleventh hour is still considered unlikely.
Wilkerson’s negotiations with the Jets have been well-documented over the course of the past several months. After reportedly shopping him around draft time, Gang Green has shown no interest in acquiescing to Wilkerson’ demands, and now that he’s reportedly asking to match — or better — the six-year, $103MM contract inked by Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, talks have seemingly slowed to a crawl. Wilkerson, for his part, has expressed frustration that New York hasn’t shown an interest in retaining him beyond the 2016 season.
In any event, Wilkerson appears likely to play out the season under the franchise tender, which would pay him a fully guaranteed $15.701MM. However, Wilkerson doesn’t seem intent on signing that tag any time soon — as such, he won’t technically be under contract, meaning the Jets can’t fine him if he skips training camp. According to Garafolo, Wilkerson hasn’t made an official decision as of yet on whether he’ll attend July and August practice sessions
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.
Although Wilkerson’s performance showed he was worthy of franchise-tag consideration, there were also a handful of factors working against him. He broke his leg during the Jets’ regular-season finale, and while that injury isn’t expected to sideline him at all next season, it complicated his contract situation a little. Additionally, the Jets have two other talented defensive ends on their roster, in Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, so re-signing Wilkerson could be viewed as something of a luxury.
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