Very rarely is it said that arguably the best player on an NFL team should be traded, but in the case of the New York Jets and All-Pro Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson the time has come for a parting of ways.
Wilkerson has been stating his requests to be paid as on elite defender for the better part of two seasons, and coming off his best regular season, in which he accumulated a career high 12 sacks from the defensive end position, he has certainly earned every penny.
The 2011 first-round pick has been arguably the second-best defensive end in the NFL behind of course J.J. Watt. So if you’re the Jets why would you not pay this man the money? His teammates want him back, but understand the business side of the NFL as well.
“Everybody out there knows who Mo is,” Jets linebacker David Harris told reporters Monday on a conference call. “Mo is one of the best D-ends in this league. We all know it’s a business. It’s part of the game. Hopefully he’ll be here, but he has to do what is best for him.”
Wilkerson, a hometown kid out of New Jersey, is a team first guy, but coming off a serious leg injury he wants to secure his financial future. But for the Jets it’s a case of need vs. cap space vs. real worth based on position.
The New York Jets are cap strapped after a spending spree last off-season bringing back Darrel Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who is no longer with the team. Aside from that they brought in Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist to completely revamp this backfield.
Aside from last season, let’s not forget that if the season started today Geno Smith would be the starter with Bryce Petty, 2015 fourth-round draft pick, as his backup. Yes the ongoing saga between the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick is at a staredown at this point and moving Wilkerson would free some cap space in order to rectify that situation.
I’m not saying pay Fitzpatrick $15 million next year, that’s not the solution at all, but to have some breathing room to fill some roster holes would help at this point.
The real primary reason the New York Jets are smart for not meeting Wilkerson’s contract demands, which are reportedly around $18-$19 million per year, is because they simply don’t need him. The Jets are stacked on the defensive front with 2013 first-round pick Sheldon Richardson, who the Jets just picked up his 5th year option through 2017, and last years first-round pick Leonard Williams.
Simply put Williams can take Wilkerson’s spot with minimum drop off in play, obviously Williams will need time to improve as a pass rusher, but he had a solid rookie season to build off. Of the three, Sheldon Richardson is arguably the most talented player of the group. He is athletic and has the best pass rush ability, along with being a solid run defender. If he put it all together he’d be on pace with the best ends in football, but stemming legal issues could slow Richardson’s progress and make the Jets regret not investing long-term in the more professional player.
There have been rumors of a potential deal to move up in the draft, including the Chicago Bears who have all but eliminated the thought of a trade now. The dilemma with a potential Wilkerson trade is that the Jets have all but said they want a first-round pick, so not only would the other team be trading a high value future asset, but then they need the cap space to sign him to a multi-year deal for just under $20 million a season.
It seems unlikely at this point the New York Jets can command a first-round pick for the 26-year-old pro bowler, but if they can get multiple mid-round picks they should jump all over it. After all, why would you want a player that is rumored to now want a fresh start on the roster under a franchise tag?