Instead of getting Mo’ money, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is getting hit with the franchise tag.
Two sources familiar with the situation confirmed to Newsday that the Jets will tag Wilkerson by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, thereby keeping him under control for 2016.
He is scheduled to earn a fully guaranteed $15.7 million this season, the average of the five highest-paid players at his position. That salary may sound sufficient, but Wilkerson, 26, has been seeking a long-term contract extension to no avail since 2014.
Although general manager Mike Maccagnan said last week that Wilkerson and nose tackle Damon Harrison were “both options” for the designation, it was expected that the Jets would franchise Wilkerson after contract talks repeatedly stalled.
Even with the franchise tag, the Jets have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with Wilkerson. After that, he would have to play under the 2016 tag amount, and the sides would have to wait until after the regular season to resume negotiations.
The Jets also could trade Wilkerson for a draft pick or a player if a long-term deal can’t be reached. It’s unlikely, however, that they can find a tag-and- trade partner willing to give up enough for the deal to make sense for the Jets.
Wilkerson, a 2011 first-round pick, is coming off a season that included a career-high 12 sacks and his first Pro Bowl selection. He’s also rehabbing from a broken right leg suffered in the Week 17 loss to the Bills.
Both sides want Wilkerson to remain a Jet, so they’ll try to work out a long-term deal. The question is: At what price could he return in 2017? Wilkerson has long been hoping for an extension worth roughly $40 million in guaranteed money. But unlike last season, Maccagnan has to deal with salary-cap constraints.
The NFL Players Association announced this year’s salary-cap figure is $155.27 million per team, but the Jets have a $2,484,216 carry-over from 2015, so their adjusted number is $157,754,216. They have $21.9 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com, but by tagging Wilkerson, that leaves only $6.2 million.
With Harrison, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell eligible for free agency, expect to see the Jets make more roster moves to free cap space.
Franchise tag values for each position agreed upon by the NFL and the players’ union:
Quarterbacks $19.95 million
Defensive ends $15.7M
Wide receivers $14.6M
Offensive linemen $13.7M
Defensive tackles $13.6M
Running backs $11.78M
Tight ends $9.1M