BOCA RATON, Fla. — Woody Johnson believes Muhammad Wilkerson is “a great player.” But the Jets owner gave no indication that the defensive end definitely has a long-term future with the franchise.
“He’s been franchised so, as far as I’m concerned, he’s on the team right now. He’s on,” Johnson said Monday during the NFL owners meeting. “He’s a great player, love to have him, and he had a great year last year. Twelve sacks. That little break [in his right leg] that he’s recovering from, from what I’ve been told, he’s recovering very well from that. So if he’s on [the team], I’m not going to be disappointed at all.”
Wilkerson, 26, has been seeking a long-term contract extension since 2014, when John Idzik was the team’s general manager. But the Pro Bowl defensive end has yet to receive the big-money deal he’s been seeking.
Wilkerson, who’s rehabbing from a broken leg he sustained in the season finale against Buffalo, has already received the franchise tag from the organization. That means the Jets will pay him $15.7 million for the 2016 season if he remains on the roster.
For the past two years, the Jets and Wilkerson’s agent have failed to reach a long-term agreement. Asked if the organization made the defensive end a fair offer, Johnson said: “I’m not going to characterize the offer. If we made him an offer, he didn’t accept it. Fair is a subjective thing. It’s got to be acceptable to him and to us.”
Wilkerson, a New Jersey native and 2011 No. 1 draft pick of the Jets, has said on several occasions that he wants to be a Jet for life. The current front office has echoed those sentiments, although general manager Mike Maccagnan clearly doesn’t want to pay Wilkerson the amount of money he’s seeking.
But if Wilkerson is such a talented player in Johnson’s estimation, why is it taking so long to strike a deal?
“With any player, there has to be a moment when their side and our side is happy,” Johnson said, “and we feel that we’re getting what we wanted, in terms that are acceptable or semi-acceptable to us, and the same for him. We just haven’t been able to do that.
“It’s amazing, since we’ve been negotiating with him for a few years now.”