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Latest on Wilkerson's Contract Status
Thursday, Jan. 14
According to the team's official Twitter account, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said Thursday he will "absolutely" consider using the franchise tag—potentially on Wilkerson. Maccagnan told reporters it's "not impossible" for the team to keep the defensive line of Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Wilkerson intact.
In addition to the franchise comment, Maccagnan also made it clear the Jets have interest in retaining Wilkerson, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini:
Rich Cimini @RichCimini
Mike Maccagnan: "We'd very much like to have Muhammad (Wilkerson) back in the organization." Won't go further than that. #nyj2016-1-14 18:09:18
The 2015 Pro Bowl selection has developed into one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL, and he is coming off arguably his best season to date with 64 tackles and a career-high 12 sacks.
The Temple product suffered a broken leg in New York's final game of the campaign, and he recently underwent successful surgery, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
Per Chris Lopresti of WFAN, Maccagnan expects Wilkerson to be ready to go in six months, which means he should be healthy in time for training camp.
If the former first-round pick's rehab goes as well as expected, there is no reason why he shouldn't return to elite form in 2016.
Any number of teams would be willing to pay for his production on the open market, but the Jets may be wise to ensure that he never gets there.
Wilkerson is a versatile player capable of playing defensive end and defensive tackle, and he was a perfect fit in head coach Todd Bowles' scheme.
As the linchpin of New York's front seven, losing a player of Wilkerson's caliber could set the Jets back and push them even further away from playoff contention.
Although franchising him would certainly require a large financial commitment, Wilkerson has proved to be well worth it, with 36.5 sacks and just three games missed during his five-year career.
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