Muhammad Wilkerson Franchise-Tagged by New York Jets

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 29, 2016

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 3: Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets on the sideline against the Buffalo Bills during NFL game action at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The New York Jets ensured that star defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson won't escape as a free agent by designating him with the franchise tag.

The Jets announced the move on Tuesday.

“Mo is a very good player,” said Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan at the NFL Scouting Combine, per the team's release. “Obviously we’d like to have him in the organization going forward. At the end of the day, we like Mo very much. We do realize the franchise tag is an option that every team has with their players to potentially hold onto them and try to keep them long-term."

On Monday, Kimberly Jones of and Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News initially reported that the move would be made. Mehta reported on Monday that Wilkerson will be owed $15.7 million for 2016. 

Wilkerson could have changed teams for the first time in his young, fabulous career and gotten a hefty multiyear payday on the open market. Instead, he'll stick with the franchise that chose him in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft for at least one more season.

Unfortunately, Wilkerson suffered a broken leg in a loss to the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale, which kept New York from going to the playoffs. He logged a career-high 12 sacks and seven passes defensed in 2015, helping the Jets rank fourth in total yards allowed.

In January, Maccagnan told Rich Cimini of ESPN, "We'd very much like to have Muhammad [Wilkerson] back in the organization." Maccagnan also said the 26-year-old could indeed be a franchise-tag candidate, per the Jets' official Twitter account. Since there's some uncertainty surrounding Wilkerson's health at the present time, locking him up was a wise move.

With a solid leader at the helm in head coach Todd Bowles and a realistic chance to go to the postseason for the first time in his career, Wilkerson has to be looking forward to an additional year in New York. Plus, he'll be getting paid a lot of money and can simply walk next offseason if he doesn't like the direction the Jets are going.

If he makes a full recovery from his aforementioned injury and New York can make slight improvements across the board, though, chances are Wilkerson could be with the team for the long haul anyway.

Between 2015 first-round pick Leonard Williams and 2013 first-rounder Sheldon Richardson, the Jets defense has its share of big, athletic bodies to man the trenches. Williams is bound to improve in his second year, which should make New York all the more dangerous with Wilkerson coming back.