Muhammad Wilkerson will not attend the Jets mandatory OTAs this week, we know this and it's not a big deal considering he is still rehabbing from his broken leg but according to ESPN's Rich Cimini Wilkerson might just skip training camp as well.
Wilkerson has been trying to get a new contract for years, under two different GMs, and while he has waited he has watched his contemporaries get paid big-time money. Wilkerson wants his cut. But if the two sides couldn't get a deal done before they aren't ever likely to agree to a deal now that players like Olivier Vernon and Fletcher Cox have gotten paid. Cox just signed a six-year extension with $63 million guaranteed and Wilkerson wants to see that same type of security and rightfully so. Going by the market Wilkerson deserves that type of money but going by the current structure of the Jets roster the Jets can't possibly justify giving him that type of money.
Not with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams on the roster and not with so many holes left to fill on the rest of the roster. Wilkerson and the Jets have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal and when they don't Wilkerson will either have to sit out the year — which won't happen because then he'll only be wasting a year and $15.7 million to end up in this same exact spot next year — or sign the franchise tag, play out the year and hope the Jets let him walk to his big pay day next offseason. The Jets could slap the franchise tag on him again next year, which would cost them $18.8 million, but it's hard to imagine them doing that again with all the other positions that they could use that money to upgrade.
Since Wilkerson isn't under contract he can't be fined for missing this week's OTAs or for skipping training camp and coming off his injury there's absolutely no reason for him to show up to training camp to risk injury knowing this team won't commit to him. Wilkerson will eventually sign the franchise tag because he wants that $15.7 million this year and he wants credit for the year so he has a shot of someone else paying him next year but he likely won't sign the tag until a week or two before the start of the regular season.
The Jets should've signed Wilkerson to a long-term deal years ago, when John Idzik was still the GM and they had all types of money to spend, but at this point they simply can't justify paying him, they couldn't find a suitable trade partner and they can't keep placing the franchise tag on him without resentment and distrust in the front office leaking throughout the rest of the roster. Wilkerson will sign this tag this year, play out his contract and the Jets have to hope a motivated Wilkerson will demand to get paid by having the best year of his career, a year that in all likelihood will be his last as a Jet.
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)