FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - With all the uncertainty surrounding Mo Wilkerson's thorny contract situation, leave it to Darrelle Revis -- a veteran of his own thorny contract squabbles -- to add this dose of optimism about the defensive end's status: Even if there is no impending resolution of Wilkerson's deal, he will be on the field when the Jets open the season against the Browns on Sept. 13.
"Yeah, he'll be here," Revis said at his locker Tuesday on the first day of the Jets' three-day mandatory minicamp. "He's a big part of our defense. He's a special guy. He was a rookie my [next to] last year here [in 2011], and you could see the potential. He was awesome, always just making plays. He'll be here."
Revis has fought plenty of contract wars in his time in the NFL, so there may be no better player to offer his evaluation of Wilkerson's situation. Though he won't say how he knows that Wilkerson will be in uniform for the opener, he has seen enough contract disputes -- including his own -- to believe that things will work out one way or another.
What remains to be seen is whether Wilkerson pulls a Revis and decides to hold out in training camp, something Revis did twice during his time with the Jets. Wilkerson declined to say whether he'd show up when the Jets open camp in late July, so he still holds the only trump card left at his disposal. "I'm not answering that question," Wilkerson said when asked if he'd be there on Day 1 of camp.
The bigger issue for the Jets is whether Wilkerson will be there when the games count, and Revis insisted he would. Even Wilkerson conceded that if he had to play out the final year of his contract, which is scheduled to pay him just under $7 million this season, he would do so.
Not that anyone should feel sorry for him if that's what happens. That is more cash than most people will earn in a lifetime, and there will be little sympathy for a millionaire looking for more millions. But as a professional athlete with unique talents that very few people possess, Wilkerson is absolutely entitled to push for as much money as he can get in a meat-grinder of a sport in which a player's career can end with one split-second snap of a ligament.
The Jets seem to be in no hurry to get anything done with Wilkerson, mostly because they have most of the leverage. Wilkerson is still under contract and theoretically can be kept through the 2016 season if the Jets decide to use the franchise tag next year. The fact that the Jets drafted USC defensive end Leonard Williams decreases Wilkerson's leverage further.
But that won't stop Wilkerson from pushing for a new deal, although I doubt he'll get what he's asking for. I'm told Wilkerson wants a deal similar to the six years, $100 million J.J. Watt got with the Texans last year. That's not happening. Wilkerson is a very good player, but he's not in Watt's league.
Revis won his contract wars, mostly because he was an elite player, but also because he didn't back down during negotiations. He held out as a rookie in 2007 and again in 2010, getting huge deals each time.
And when the Jets were frightened off by his potential contract demands in 2013, then-general manager John Idzik dealt him to the Buccaneers for first- and fourth-round picks. A year later, the Bucs released Revis, who signed with the Patriots and won his first Super Bowl title. Then Revis played the contract game to perfection in the offseason, making his way back to the Jets with a five-year, $70-million deal that included $39 million guaranteed.
Revis said he never felt uncomfortable pushing for new deals, even with negative fan reaction during his holdouts.
"There's a risk , but everybody has their own situation," he said. "Everybody handles it differently. If you want there to be pressure, there'll be pressure. I never felt it. Did it bother the team? No. The coaches coach, the players go to work. That's the business side of it, on both sides."
"Somebody was playing corner in my absence."No matter how the Wilkerson situation plays out, one thing that will not change is the fifth-year defensive end's standing among his teammates.
"Good, bad or indifferent, he's still our brother," Revis said.