Jets Wilkerson to Skip Offseason Workouts?

According to Jason LaCanfora, Jets star Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson, will not attend the team’s voluntary offseason workout program that begins today. Wilkerson is in the final year of  rookie contract that will pay him $6.969 million but had been hoping for a contract extension that would solidify his status as the defensive leader of the Jets. While these workouts are voluntary and there is no reason for Wilkerson to attend (Wilkerson has no workout bonus in his contract) usually such absences in today’s NFL are to show a sign of unhappiness with a contract unless the player is one who simply never attends these programs.

Wilkerson’s situation illustrates just how fast things change in the NFL. It was rumored last year that he and former GM John Idzik had worked on paramters of a new deal and the sides were somewhat close on an extension. For one reason or another the deal was never completed and Idzik was fired as soon as the season ended. With a new regime in place that take a contract year player like Wilkerson and bring the negotiations right back to step one.

The dynamics of the negotiation may have completely changed at this point.  From the Jets side you have a new GM and coach that may have a very different opinion on Wilkerson than the former staff. Mike Maccagnan, whose background is in scouting, may not have graded Wilkerson as high as the Jets did and may prefer to see him more on a practice field before he is convinced of the high worth. He was also very close to JJ Watt and may hear any comparison to Watt and immediately not consider it valid. He also may not just believe in early extensions or that other positions are more important to target.

From Wilkerson’s side the price has likely gone up in light of recent contracts signed in the NFL and more specifically signed by the Jets. The Jets went on a wild spending spree this offseason that included $16 million a season to Darrelle Revis, $8 million to Antonio Cromartie, $7.5 million to David Harris, and over $6 million to 3rd string corner Buster Skrine. With the market for defensive linemen being completely turned on its head with the Dolphins QB like contract with Ndamukong Suh there is no reason for Wilkerson to hold to any contract based on numbers from 2014. If Wilkerson sees himself as the leader of the defense then there is almost no reason to settle for much less than $16 million a year and with a very large guarantee that mimics those of Revis (55.6%) and Harris (69.8%) in terms of percentage of contract truly guaranteed.

In hindsight, this really was a contract the Jets needed to get done last season regardless of Idzik’s status. All the uncertaintly of free agencies impact on the team would have been avoided and they likely could have gotten him done at a better price for the team.  Why they did not focus on him is still a bit of a mystery to me.

One of the misperceptions about the Jets is that they no longer have the cap room to extend Wilkerson. The Jets have close to $12 million in cap space and that figure includes Wilkerson’s current cap charge. The team could give him significantly more money this year and only knock a few million more off the number. The Jets just need to maintain some flexibility for the contract in 2016, where they will likely be closer to the bottom of the NFL in cap space.

The reason I say that is that the Jets are in a position where they have to make certain they have something available to spend in the event a quareterback does become available. Currently Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Cam Newton could possibly hit free agency next season. It is also possible that Drew Brees will be available next offseason. While it is highly unlikely all would be available, there is a possibility one would be available and for a QB needy team like the Jets they need to be able to make the strongest pitch for the player.  So any additiona extensions will likely need to be designed to maximize that potential.

  • Paul Newbold

    Its a very unpopular opinion among Jet fans, but I think they might look to move him at some point this year. Neither side will say, but these negotiations have been ongoing for almost two years. The Jets had the money to get it done prior to free agency, nothing happened as you have to figure Mo and his agents wanted the market to set his value. The Suh deal set the bar, and I suspect Mo’s agents want something close to that deal after the Jets have made Mo wait for his deal. The Mo camp can’t be happy with players getting $$ contracts while he sits back and waits. If the Jets wanted to keep him, the money was right there! Now the Jets have no leverage left what so ever, all the cards are in his agents hands, and the Jets no longer have the $$ to get it done. He’d bring an awful lot of value on draft day, or at any point this season. I no longer see this deal as one that is guaranteed to get done. Though I remain hopeful.

    • McGeorge

      Paul,
      I think you’re right.

      I’m still annoyed the Jets couldn’t get something done with him, but had money to waste on David Harris and Buster Skrine. I’d rather over pay a younger good player like Wilkerson, than way overpay mediocre (and old in the case of Harris) players.

      The Jets aren’t going to be very good this year, it’s not like they are competing for a wild card slot. So any short term advantage of having David Harris and winning one extra game this year is worthless, compared to future years with Wilkerson.

  • buk

    I hate to bring it up again but this highlights why the Kerley extension and the Harvin trade was a terrible mid season move by Idzik. 7 million paid out to Harvin for 9 games and he’s off the team plus loss of a 5th rd pick 5 months later. A few million in guaranteed money to Kerley who would have struggled in free agency this year in a market where Crabtree is still searching for a team. 7 to 10 mil in cap space that could have been carried over this year if Idzik did nothing. 6 games in Idzik was already under fire for not too much cap space, the most obvious moves was to extend both Harris and Wilkerson at deals more favorable to the Jets than what they ultimately did or will get.
    With new regime going completely against Idzik’s “plan” by bringing back both Revis and Cromartie do not have a bargain players signed other than those on their rookie deals.
    Worse still is the amount of money the Jets have tied up in 30yr old players when the season begins. Marshall 7.5mil,Harris 7.5mil, Cromartie 7.5mil, Mangold & Ferguson 10 mil, Revis 16mil. On a positive note according to OTC the Jets will be able to move on from all these players except Revis after 2yrs without too much dead money on the cap.

    • McGeorge

      Idzik, the gift that keeps on giving. The Jets are still having problems due to him a year later.
      3 years of problems based on a 2 year reign.

  • nyjchris

    What kind of contract do you think he deserves? A $12.5m per year
    average seems fair for both parties. 5 yr/ $63m extension with around
    $30m guarantee:

    2015: $7m
    2016: $11m
    2017: $11m
    2018: $13m
    2019: $14m
    2020: $14m

    With
    the salary cap increasing over the next few years, this deal wouldn’t
    be outrageous. He should realize that he’s not near Watt or Suh as a
    player. The problem is, he can do whatever he wants and like you said
    Jason, the Jets set the bar pretty high as far as contracts given out
    this offseason.

    It just goes to show how bad management can
    really set you back. This extension could have been done for much
    cheaper, in my opinion, if Idzilch handled it last season.

    • Its hard to say. I was always in the camp that hes a $12M or so player but in light of the Suh contract and the spending in general in the NFL I honestly cantsee him settling for less than $16M. He is kind of in a very weird spot right now. This is not to compare personalities but hes not that unlike Kerry Rhodes from years ago where Rhodes is the best player on a bad team that earns him a big sum of money.

      But very quickly it became clear that Revis was better than Rhodes and Rhodes was no longer the leader of the defense falling behind Bart Scott and even David Harris. The switch from head coach just hastened the quick fall from grace for Rhodes who didnt look as great on a good team and Rex didnt care for Rhodes attitude.

      Mo didnt get the money yet but I think his spot is similar. His numbers were way down last year and while it was certainly good all around play it wasnt the kind of production that has you mentioned with JJ Watt. It was more the kind of productions fans paint in a better light because they like the best player on a bad team. If he did that this year fans wouldnt be so kind and in general I think front offices will take that pessimistic viewpoint.

      Richardson is arguably the better player, Revis is going to be the leader, and Im sure the new coach will already be very into Cromartie since he coached him last year in Arizona. All these new faces are pushing Mo down the importance of the team.

      • McGeorge

        I’d trade him if he’d not take less than 16MM.
        (I partially blame it on Idzik for dragging his feet)

  • McGeorge

    >.The Jets just need to maintain some flexibility for the contract in 2016, where they will likely be closer to the bottom of the NFL in cap space.

    Jason, How do the Jets go from having all this excess cap money they are forced to spend, to being in the lower quarter next year? It sounds like they have spent poorly this off season.
    It’s too early to tell but I don’t like what I’m seeing from Maccagnan, though maybe Woodys pushed the Revis signing.

    • Im sure the Revis signing was pushed by Woody but I think they also saw value in there. the Jets clearly overpaid guys but they were in a position where they had to. Harris, IMO, is the most questionable, though clearly he is the guy given money to show “they care for the homegrown talent”. Many of the players could go next season so its not that bad, but for the most part I think this is the core of the team for the next 2 and maybe 3 years. Basically it will be draft supplementation with the outside chance at the QB.

  • Justme1966z

    Maybe it is because I have pro-Patriot blinders but the Jets roster just seems old as various posters have pointed out. Brady is 37 but they only have 4 other players who are 30 or older: Branch (30), Gostkowski (31), Ninkovich (31) and Volmer (30).