FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Muhammad Wilkerson may have chosen to publicly air his grievances with the Jets, but his coach took a different tack Thursday. Asked about Wilkerson’s mounting frustration over the stalled contract negotiations, Todd Bowles kept his comments about the defensive end to a minimum.
“Every player in the league thinks they’re underpaid, so it’s a part of business, something that’ll work itself out,” Bowles said on the final day of the three-day minicamp.
“I’m not going to discuss Mo’s situation here in public. I’ll talk to them and Mo about it. I’m not going to talk to everybody else about it. That’s something that I’ve always done.”
Wilkerson went on the offensive this week, calling out the organization for not “trying like they should” to lock him up long term.
“It’s shocking. It’s frustrating,” he told the New York Post. “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? You know what I mean?”
The 2011 first-round pick led the team with a career-high 12 sacks and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2015. He broke his right leg in the Week 17 loss at Buffalo that cost the Jets a playoff berth.
Wilkerson has been seeking a long-term extension since 2014, when John Idzik was the general manager. Now, a second Jets regime is unwilling to meet his demands for a J.J. Watt-level payday.
“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.”
Although he’s been rehabbing at the Jets’ facility the past month, he has not signed his $15.7-million franchise-tag tender. He didn’t report to voluntary OTAs and minicamp, and he’s still undecided about showing up for training camp late next month.
Bowles doesn’t believe Wilkerson’s comments will be a distraction. “No, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I was 20-something once, too. And I said a lot of things that I said or didn’t want to say. But when you’re younger, you say things. He says what he means. So obviously, he meant them.”
The Jets have until July 15 to lock up Wilkerson long term, but it seems unlikely they will come to an agreement after all this time. If they don’t, Wilkerson will be forced to play out the season at the tag amount.
“I don’t think they’re trying like they should,’’ Wilkerson said. “We’ve still got time.”
He believes the Jets tried to trade him before the NFL Draft. “That just shows they don’t want me,” he said. “They are willing to let me walk or whatever the case may be.”
Fletcher Cox of the Eagles is the latest defensive lineman to receive a lucrative deal, agreeing to a six-year, $103-million extension this week, with $63 million guaranteed. Wilkerson believes he’s a better player. He has 36.5 sacks in his five-year career; Cox has 22 in four seasons.
With his rehab on schedule, Wilkerson insisted he’ll be ready to play this season. He’s also hoping to wear green and white for years to come.
“I’m all for being a Jet and finishing my career here,” he said. “I love the Jets fans. I appreciate all the support from them and I just hope I can continue my career here and play in front of one of the best crowds in the league.”