It feels really weird to have arrived at a point where keeping Muhammad Wilkerson — one of the best defensive ends in football — is viewed as a disappointment but alas, here we are.
The entire NFL world has known Wilkerson was available for months and if a deal hasn't been done, or at least agreed to in principle, by now it certainly seems unlikely that would change now. There are plenty of teams that would be willing to pay Wilkerson what he wants and plenty that would be willing to trade the necessary draft picks to get him, but it appears there are exactly zero who are willing to do both.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Wilkerson is still rehabbing his broken leg — Wilkerson can film as many videos as he wants teams are going to want to see him workout before making that type of commitment to him — and that this year's draft class is loaded at defensive line. The Jets would have loved to have been able to clear up $15 million in cap space and acquire more picks to add o the team, but they couldn't find any takers and now they're stuck with one of the best defenders in football for at least one more year.
There is always the possibility that the Jets could still trade him after the draft — maybe a team with cap space will fail to get one of the defensive ends they like in the draft and be willing to part with 2017 picks — but the most likely scenario seems that Wilkerson will have to play out this season, the Jets let him walk and they get a 2018 compensatory draft pick in return. Not ideal of course — and there's always the possibility the Jets could tag him at over $18 million next year — but as Rapoport said the Jets are content to keep one of the best defenders in the league for another year.
Obviously "unlikely" doesn't mean it definitely won't happen but everything would need to be agreed upon — and Wilkerson would have to sign the franchise tag — before the draft because there's simply not enough time to pull it off during the draft. Mike Maccagnan will now have to get creative and find other ways to free up enough cap space to sign the draft class and a quarterback and that is probably the biggest negative to not trading Wilkerson for the Jets.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null