FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Lost in all the chatter about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ongoing contact talks with the Jets is the long-term future of Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Pro Bowl defensive end is under contract for 2016 after being hit with the franchise-tag this offseason. But he’s still seeking a long-term extension.
The Jets have until 4 p.m. on July 15 to sign him to a multiyear contract or extension. After that, per league rules, Wilkerson would only be allowed to sign a one-year contract that could not be extended until after the Jets’ last regular season game (Jan. 1).
“We want to come to an agreement,” coach Todd Bowles said after Wednesday’s practice. “We want to sign all our good players. But that doesn’t always work out. I’m not saying we are or aren’t.
“Obviously you want to keep your good players around. But with the rules these days they make it very hard after four or five years to keep your own. So we’ve got to try to finagle and find ways to do that and have enough money to try to do so.”
Wilkerson — who has been in contract negotiations with the team since 2014 — is rehabbing a broken right leg, suffered in Week 17 in Buffalo. He has not shown up for voluntary organized team activities and it’s unclear when he’ll be back on the field. After skipping last year’s voluntary workouts and OTAs because of stalled contract talks, he returned to practice on Day 1 of mandatory minicamp on June 9.
This year, mandatory minicamp begins June 14.
Asked if he expects Wilkerson, 26, to be present at the start of training camp in late July, Bowles said: “I have no idea at this time. I would like him to be here, I hope he’s here, but we’ll see.”
Bowles said Wilkerson has stopped by the facility “to pick up some things” and he also “ran across” Wilkerson a few times out of the building.
“We kind of run the same, not circle, but we’re from the same place,’’ said Bowles, who was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, like Wilkerson.
Bowles didn’t seem particularly bothered that Wilkerson was training elsewhere this offseason. “I mean there’s a lot of guys that go rehab elsewhere,” he said. “There’s so many places to rehab right now especially when you haven’t signed a contract yet. So, you know, he has every right to do that.”
As for his conversations with Wilkerson, Bowles said they were brief but cordial: “‘Hey, what’s happening, I hadn’t seen you.’ “Good.” ‘OK.’ Nothing serious.”