Outside of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Muhammad Wilkerson is the biggest name the New York Jets have approaching free agency. The defensive end is the closest thing the Jets have to an anchor of the unit and losing him would be a huge hit to the team in 2016. However, retaining him will not be easy either as Wilkerson will command a big contract in 2016 despite his broken leg. Owner Woody Johnson is proceeding with caution.
When asked about the future of Wilkerson, Johnson would only say via ESPN.com, "Mo is a great player. We'll see how that plays out." The solution to Wilkerson will not be easy. The defensive end suffered a broken leg and will miss six months after undergoing surgery. He is looking to get paid like one of the best in his role, but the Jets are cash strapped with other contracts to worry about as well. With a franchise tag in their back pocket, the Jets might have to use a $16 million move to retain the star.
"Absolutely we would consider using the franchise tag," general manager Mike Maccagnan said, via the New York Post. "I know it always pertains back to Mo. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, if we get to that point we'll do what's in the best interests of our team. We would potentially, yeah. It's not a big secret or anything like that."
There are going to be teams that try and poach Wilkerson away from the Jets. According to the Dallas News, the Cowboys could be a potential target as they aim to move on from Greg Hardy in the coming offseason. The Atlanta Falcons have made it clear they need to improve their passing rushing unit. Wilkerson is a top player at his position and if the Jets hesitate with what to do with him, someone else will move in.
The tricky thing for the Jets is the lack of salary cap space the team has. According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the team will have to get creative when it comes to retaining everyone for the coming season. There will be casualties. Dee Milliner, Antonio Cromartie, Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and even Sheldon Richardson all run the risk of getting cut or traded at the start of free agency. The Jets are hoping to retain Fitzpatrick and Damon Harrison in free agency while bringing back a running back and potentially adding a wide receiver. Doing all of that will be tough.