The New York Jets announced Friday that they have finally signed star defensive lineman Muhammed Wilkerson to a five year deal after franchise tagging him in March. His contract extension is reportedly worth $86 million over five years with $37 million guaranteed and a $15 million signing bonus. Wilkerson is set to take home around $17 million a year.
The final hour deal was a bolt from the blue, considering that most of New York’s sport media reported earlier in the week that the continuing stalemate between the two parties was unlikely to conclude before the franchise tag deadline. Following the signing, which came as a huge surprise to most, ESPN’s Rich Cimini first reported the details of the negotiations, stating that things began to change Wednesday night when the Jets e-mailed a proposal that intrigued Wilkerson’s camp. At this point the deal on the table was five years, while Wilkerson continued to seek a six year contract. In the early hours of Friday morning, a revised offer was made by the team. After a full day of negotiating, they managed to sweeten the deal enough for Wilkerson to sign the five year agreement minutes before the 4pm deadline.
Wilkerson putting pen to paper marks the end of a saga that has quietly dragged on through the offseason. In fact until Friday, there seemed little optimism that an agreement was possible amidst much speculation that Wilkerson would not turn up to training camp and would refuse to sign his $15.7 million franchise deal. It would seem that the lack of long term commitment was a major sticking point in negotiations with Wilkerson, who felt his contribution to the team was worth far more than a one year contract. Speaking of the situation, in June he said, “Do I feel that they want me back? As of right now, no. I don’t feel like they want me.”
The addition of Leonard Williams in 2015, the continued support of Sheldon Richardson despite off field issues, and the perceived lack of urgency to sign Wilkerson to a long term deal led to speculation that Mo’s time with the Jets might be short lived. However, it would seem that the Jets’ certainly do want Pro Bowler Wilkerson, and have paid him accordingly.
Wilkerson was drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 2011 draft and has become one of the most dominant 3-4 defensive ends in the league . In his five year career in green and white, Mo has played 77 out of a possible 88 games with a total of 36.5 career sacks. In 2015 he registered 64 tackles and a career-high 12 sacks. Despite suffering a broken leg in the Jets’ 2015 season ending game against Buffalo, he is expected to be back to full health for the start of the 2016 season. Wilkerson is a key cog in the Jets’ monstrous defensive line which was ranked in a recent NFL.com article as the second best in the league going into 2016. Alongside Sheldon Richardson and their 2015 first round pick Leonard Williams, the resigning of Wilkerson should ensure the Jets’ d-line shouldn’t miss a beat in ensuring they retain their ‘top defense’ status, despite the loss of nose tackle Damon Harrison to the Giants.
Speaking on Twitter after the team officially announced his signing, Wilkerson said: “I give my all every Sunday on the field and play with so much love and passion for the game, I’m thankful for everything that comes my way and proud to say I’m back on the green and white for a few more years.”
Certainly Jets’ nation too are thankful for Wilkerson’s contributions and breathed a collective sigh of relief when the deal was revealed. In a summer of uncertainty at One Jets’ Drive, this is now one less worry for the team who currently have Geno Smith pegged as the starting quarterback. Will the Ryan Fitzpatrick contract be the next one on the table?
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