Frustrated with the Jets? Fans in the New York area express that sentiment on a regular basis, but one of the team’s top players is doing the same this offseason.
Muhammad Wilkerson, the New York Jets’ six-foot-four, 305-pound defensive end/tackle, has made his disenchantment with the team public in recent days. According to Fox Sports, Wilkerson is unhappy that the team has not made it a priority to sign him to the long-term contract he desires.
“It’s shocking. It’s frustrating,” Wilkerson said. “Because I feel like I’ve earned it and I deserve it. It would be different if I was just a mediocre player. I feel like each and every week I’m dominating and it’s showing. The stats speak for themselves. Basically, what more do I need to do?”
Wilkerson’s previous contract expired at the conclusion of the 2015 NFL season, but the team used their franchise tag option on the Pro Bowl defensive lineman. Per league rules regarding the franchise tag, the Jets are required to offer Wilkerson a one-year deal for $15.7 million. However, Wilkerson has refused to sign the offer, as he is frustrated that the team seems hesitant to offer him more than just a one-year contract at this point.
The New York Post reports that Wilkerson wants to remain with the Jets for years to come, but doesn’t understand why the feeling isn’t mutual.
“Do I feel that they want me back? As of right now, no. I don’t feel like they want me,” Wilkerson said. “I’m a talented guy. Everybody knows that. I feel like they’re going to get the best they can out of me and just let me go. That’s how I feel. Do I like that feeling? No. I’m a New Jersey guy, born and raised and would love to raise my family here.”
Interestingly, the reasons the New York Jets are unwilling to sign Wilkerson to a long-term contract have nothing to do with Wilkerson himself.
The Jets are loaded with talent along the defensive line, with impact-players Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams both under contract with the team. In the age of the salary cap, NFL teams simply cannot retain all the players they would like to, and in this case, the Jets don’t feel they can afford to dole out a monster deal to Wilkerson.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles was asked if Wilkerson’s contract dispute with the team has become a distraction.
“No, it doesn’t bother me,” said Bowles. “I was 20-something once, too, and I said a lot of things that I said or didn’t want to say. When you’re younger, you say things. But he said things he means, so he obviously meant them.”
Muhammad Wilkerson initially came to the Jets as a first-round draft pick in 2011 after a stellar college career at Temple. Wilkerson had his best season as a pro in 2015, racking up 12 sacks and making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
At age 26, Wilkerson’s best days as an NFL player appear to be ahead of him, but his potential as a continuing force in the NFL may not be realized in New York.
If you are a long-suffering fan frustrated with the Jets, just know you are not alone — one of your team’s best players is right there with you.
[Photo by Peter Morgan/AP Images]