Muhammad Wilkerson has played five seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Jets, his hometown team. Wilkerson has been a standout player since he first showed up to rookie camp, fresh out of Temple University. He has continued to put in the work on and off the field, has never gotten into any trouble and continues to be productive year after year so it's easy to understand why he's frustrated the Jets won't give him the long-term contract he deserves.
"Yeah, I'm surprised," Wilkerson said while speaking at his charity bowling event in Linden, New Jersey according to the Associated Press. "Frustrated, but what can I do? What can I say?"
There's not much he can say and there's even less he can do. Wilkerson has been trying to get a long-term extension for years, with two different GMs and the market for defensive ends of his caliber continues to go up even as the Jets continue to show an unwillingness to give him that type of top end money. If the two sides weren't close before they aren't ever going to get close after Olivier Vernon and Fletcher Cox just got the deals they did, and certainly not with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams still on the Jets roster.
Wilkerson could refuse to sign the franchise tag and sit out the year but the Jets have all the leverage because if he does that he will be right back in the same spot next year.
"I mean, everybody knows, it's out there, I feel like I deserve it," Wilkerson said. "I understand it's a business but my focus right now is just rehabbing my leg and getting ready."
Wilkersom said the rehab on his broken leg is going well, he's "been running for several weeks now" and he's just focused on getting healthy and ready for the season which exactly what he should do. It's understandable that he's frustrated by the lack of a long-term deal but with the way the Jets roster is currently constructed and the money already committed to the salary cap it's understandable why the Jets don't want to pay him. Which leaves Wilkerson with one choice, get healthy and sign the franchise tag just before the season starts and have a huge year and get ready to collect that big money contract somewhere else after this year.
Being a hometown kid Wilkerson would love to stay with the Jets long-term and the Jets would love to have him at a low enough number but he's simply worth more money to other teams than the Jets and he knows this. He's hopeful that a deal can be reached to keep him with the Jets long-term but he also knows that decision isn't in his hands.
"I hope so (that the Jets will give him a long-term deal), but I can't answer that question."
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (email@example.com)