In the midst of all the Ryan Fitzpatrick noise it was the New York Jets best player, Muhammad Wilkerson, who made an appearance on Wednesday.
Like a college graduate who just returned to his hometown without a job, he’s stuck with nowhere to go.
Muhammad Wilkerson’s situation is slightly different than this referenced broke college kid who’s been forced to move back in with mommy and daddy. There’s nobody that would argue that.
Big Mo is slated to get paid a cool $15.701M in 2016 thanks to the dreaded franchise tag slapped on him by Mike Maccagnan. These circumstances are a far cry from a 22-year old who considers $10 a wild and creative night.
But the point still holds true: Wilkerson has nowhere to go, again, for the second straight offseason.
The public war between Wilkerson and the New York Jets is well chronicled. Severely outplaying his rookie contract, Wilkerson took his request for a well deserved payday to the Jets front office – a first-year front office led by Mikey Mac.
This request last offseason turned into silence from upper management. Maccagnan expected Wilkerson to play out the final year of his rookie deal, and that’s exactly what happened after a few no-shows in the spring. Mo was a professional every step of the way.
Naturally, everybody thought the issue would be resolved one way or another this past offseason.
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It wasn’t. Maccagnan couldn’t find a taker for the talented pro-bowler and Big Mo is expected to play through 2016 with the franchise tag attached to his dominant name.
Wilkerson is understandably upset. While nobody’s going to cry for him – as his $15.701M 2016 payday would wash away any tears – the 26-year old defensive end deserves a long-term deal. A National Football League player can never afford to let a long-term opportunity slip away. Thanks to a devastating leg injury in Week 17 in Orchard Park, Mo now understands this better than anybody.
On Wednesday, the Jets finally heard from their star defensive end.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, Wilkerson made a brief appearance at the Jets facility in Florham Park, NJ on Wednesday during the media period. Due to the fact he still hasn’t put pen to paper on his franchise tender, Big Mo is technically not under contract. Therefore, this appearance was surprising despite his decline to speak to reporters.
The two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension. Barring that coming to fruition, Mo will be forced to play out 2016 under the $15.701M tag.
At this moment Wilkerson is still rehabbing his surgically repaired broken leg. And because the deadline isn’t until July 15, that tender that’s the on the table won’t be signed anytime soon.
In the end, though, Wilkerson will be at Jets training camp and will be in the starting lineup when Gang Green hosts the Cincinnati Bengals on Sep. 11 to open the NFL season.
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For the second straight offseason, the man has nowhere to go.
He can’t hold out. Should he go that route, he’ll lose his money. Should he hold out, the Jets will also be equipped with plenty of depth along the defensive line to handle such a situation. Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson by themselves form a pretty devastating one-two punch in a 3-4 scheme.
And judging how Maccagnan has patiently dealt with certain situations up to this point, he’ll allow Wilkerson to sit out. He won’t sweat. He won’t trade him for any less than fair value and thanks to the late season injury, finding fair value for such a stud monster up front is and was almost impossible.
Unfortunately for Big Mo, he has no options. He’ll simply rehab his leg and stay away until training camp.
Unfortunately for Wilkerson, he plays the position of defensive end. If he played quarterback he’d be all smiles right now staring at many years remaining on his contract.