FLORHAM PARK- He wasn’t overly happy, nor jumping for joy on the still-sore toe that plagued him during the 2014-2015 season.
He wasn’t thrilled, nor was the white flag waved in his battle with the New York Jets for a new contract.
But Muhammad Wilkerson was here, at 1 Jets Drive in Florham Park, ready to take park in the first practice of New York’s mandatory three-day minicamp.
“This was the decision that was made over the weekend between me and my agent to come in and workout with the team to get ready,” Wilkerson said. “I’m frustrated, yeah. I thought that a deal would be made, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, and these things take time.
Wilkerson, 25, has been locked in a contract dispute ever since the 2015 season came to a close, and New York picked up the fifth-year option on the former first-round pick’s contract. During the previous four years of his NFL career, Wilkerson has worked to establish himself as one of the league’s best 3-4 defensive ends.
Just two years ago, Wilkerson recorded 63 tackles and a career-high 10.5 sacks. Last season, while dealing with a turf toe injury, he recorded 55 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 13 games. Wilkerson said he feels his play has out-performed his rookie deal that will pay him just over $6 million this season. The Jets agree. What the two sides can’t come to terms on is just how much Wilkerson is worth.
Wilkerson is reported to be looking for a contract similar to J.J. Watt, who agreed to a six-year, $100 million extension with the Houston Texans. New York, to this point, has been apprehensive to part with that kind of cash.
But it’s not just Watt that has been rewarded for his on-field play. Fellow 2011 defensive line draftees Cameron Jordan (New Orleans Saints) and Corey Liuget (San Diego Chargers) all recently signed new deals.
“I’m happy for those guys and that they got their new deals,” Wilkerson said. “It’s good to show and to see that their teams took care of them.
In order to make a point, Wilkerson boycotted the Jets three sets of voluntary offseason workouts, electing to workout on his own. With minicamp mandatory and an absence carrying a fine, Wilkerson showed up and will remain in town for the three practices.
“I saw (Wilkerson) this morning,” Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “I had a big smile on my face and he had a big smile on his face… It’s good, it’s good that everyone is here and we can go to work.”
But what happens after minicamp for Wilkerson? It’s still up in the air. When asked if he’d consider a training camp holdup if a deal is not reached by the time New York reports, Wilkerson wouldn’t answer.
“If I have to play under my contract,” Wilkerson said, “Then so be it.”