ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.— Muhammad Wilkerson's Jets career may have ended in gut-wrenching fashion.
In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 22-17 defeat to the Buffalo Bills, a game that eliminated the Jets from the postseason for a fifth-straight year, Wilkerson suffered a broken leg, head coach Todd Bowles confirmed after the game.
“He’s not in the hospital yet, he’s still in the locker room,” Bowles said. “It will probably require [surgery], yes.”
Wilkerson, 26, had been enjoying the best season of his career prior to this injury. Playing on the final year of his rookie contract, Wilkerson, who was recently honored with his first Pro Bowl selection, entered Sunday’s game with 59 tackles, two forced fumbles and a career-high 12 sacks. He had five tackles and several quarterback pressures versus Buffalo before breaking his leg.
Ever since Mike Maccagnan was hired as the Jets new general manager earlier this year, a goal for New York had been to re-sign Wilkerson. The issue was that the two sides never could agree on a figure.
While the Jets wanted to reward Wilkerson for his play, it was reported that the defensive end was looking for a deal similar to the six-year, $100-million one given to the Houston Texans J.J. Watt. With Wilkerson having never recorded more than 10.5 sacks in a season, Maccagnan and Co. just weren’t ready to meet that figure.
Instead of causing much of a fuss, Wilkerson bet on himself.
While he held out during the team’s voluntary offseason workouts, Wilkerson returned for the team’s mandatory minicamp and training camp. Throughout the course of the regular season, Wilkerson dominated near every week.
If the Jets and Wilkerson cannot agree on a new contract, New York does have the option to use the “franchise tag.” By doing that, Wilkerson would play the 2016 season on a one-year deal worth the average of the top-five highest paid at his position. That value should be in the ballpark of $15 million.