The New York Jets are prepared to lose two of their biggest stars in 2016. With New York cash strapped in terms of salary cap space, they have to make some key decisions on who stays and who goes in the offseason. Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison are two players in limbo with the Jets as they need new contracts. What will the Jets do if they lose one of the players to the open market?
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, someone is getting a franchise tag. With interest high in Wilkerson, the chances the Jets use the one-year deal on the defensive end are high. Wilkerson has made it clear that he wants a long-term deal, but the Jets cannot afford to pay him what he is worth. They also cannot afford to lose him to the open market. General manager Mike Maccagnan recognizes that Wilkerson is a critical piece of the defensive puzzle.
"The simple answer is yes, we'd very much like to have Muhammad back in the organization," Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com.
That leaves Harrison potentially on the outside looking in. Sheldon Richardson told the media that he knew it would be unrealistic for the Jets to keep their defense together, but he remains hopeful that guys like Harrison stick around. The nose tackle made it clear that he wants a nice pay raise this offseason and he understands it might not come from the Jets.
"Body of work," Harrison said, via NJ.com. "I've only been a starter for three years. But in those three years I think I've done a pretty good job of fulfilling that job description," he said. "You hear people say you're just a two-down player, but there's only three downs in football. I mean, I'm on the field for a better portion of the downs."
The Jets will need to add a body to the defense this free agency run and they can either target a high-priced player or someone in the draft with their No.20 pick. Von Miller is not a realistic option, but players like Bruce Irvin and Olivier Vernon will be. Both players are young and in the prime of their careers. The issue is that they will cost the Jets some money. If the team is unwilling to pay for Harrison to return, they might not spend the money on guys like Irvin or Vernon.
More realistic options could be Courtney Upshaw or Tamba Hali. They are less than exciting picks, but still productive on the field. Shaq Lawson, Myles Jack and Noah Spence are favorable in the draft as well.