With a day to let the stunning Muhammad Wilkerson contract extension marinate, let’s dive in a little deeper and end with our first GIF Dump since the Jets knocked off New England in week 16. From yesterday, here is our initial reaction and an emergency Facebook Live Q&A on the contract. Follow along on Twitter for further analysis…
Considering their relationship, it is always worth checking in on what Charley Casserly has to say on Mike Maccagnan’s deals. His analysis yesterday seems to point to a strategy built around keeping flexibility on maintaining the presence of Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams long term. There has been a good amount of praise about the Jets potentially giving themselves an out after two years in the deal, which would be in line with how Maccagnan has structured many of his contracts.
— Charley Casserly (@CharleyCasserly) July 15, 2016
The structure of the contract gives the Jets a 10 million dollar cap hit in 2016, instead of the 15 million dollar one they were going to absorb with Wilkerson on the franchise tag. So yes, they will have more short term cap flexibility, with a larger hit coming next offseason. Interestingly, many of you do not think that means the Jets should alter their current offer to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I don’t disagree with the voting since the Jets still have 24 million dollars on the table and nobody else in the NFL is offering anything. Could this extra money instead be used to more quickly wrap up Darron Lee’s deal, add offensive line depth or a pass rusher (Dwight Freeney?) or simply maintain more flexibility heading into the season? Only time well but training camp is 11 days way so we will find out soon enough.
For a more sobering take on the contract, Jason Fitzpatrick from OTC laid out these thoughts, which is built around the premise a likely Richardson trade is on the way and that this move was made independent of the Fitzpatrick negotiations (an assertion I agree with).
The Jets lost two years of proration and over $8 million in guarantees that they could have rolled into this contract by waiting so long here. Basically at this point the Jets would have finished paying all of Wilkersons guarantees by the end of this season and in 2017 they would have the option of trading, cutting, restructuring or anything else. When you consider the presence of Sheldon Richardson and later Leonard Williams that early extension was the feasible way to spread out the cap hits and have the roster flexibility to allow that massive D-line investment. Now they are either going to spend a mini-fortune on the line or going to trade Richardson, who is extension eligible. I don’t get that logic at all.
It’s possible that negotiations with Richardson also went in circles this offseason and he has now taken Wilkerson’s place as potential trade bait. Richardson has some off the field issues that Wilkerson has never had which makes his status far less certain. It would not surprise me if in the coming days something about Richardson’s future comes out that was a catalyst for this contract.
I have seen a number of people categorize this contract as two years and an option. I really don’t see it that way. While the signing bonus isn’t massive at $15 million, it is rare that contracts this size don’t see three years happen. Far too often we get wrapped up in guarantees but the sunk cost or belief in a player is generally a bigger factor. Look at players like Ryan Clady and Victor Cruz who contributed very little because of injuries after signing new deals with their teams and they all saw three years.
It is not a crazy line of thinking on Richardson and with how guarded this front office has been, it is a situation worth monitoring. He is a player that could probably fetch a conditional mid-round pick or two as of now, with the value going up after a big season in 2016. However, for the time being it does seem like we will get another year of him running alongside Wilkerson and Williams. The challenge now falls to Todd Bowles to find the best way to utilize all three of them at the same time (not putting Richardson at outside linebacker is a start). The Jets can continue to experiment with more 4-3, nickel and 4-2-5 looks, along with sliding one of the ends inside occasionally.
From an organizational standpoint, yesterday was a day of progression for the Jets. There was no media leaking. There was no hint of this coming. They handled it in-house and at a rate that was lower than market value. On the defensive side of the ball, Mike Maccagnan has been nothing short of excellent this offseason, shedding dead weight in Demario Davis and Antonio Cromartie, while infusing more speed, talent and depth with Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Jarvis Jenkins, Bruce Carter, Steve McLendon, Juston Burris and Daryl Morris. The loss of Damon Harrison was inevitable and much more palatable now with Wilkerson back.
On to the GIFs…
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com