NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported on Monday that the Jets placed their franchise tag on Wilkerson, according to a source who has seen it. NFL Media’s Kimberly Jones first reported the team was going to franchise tag the defensive end.
Wilkerson, 26, has been the rock of New York’s defensive line since joining the Jets as a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is coming off perhaps his best season to date, setting a career-high with 12 sacks while playing stout run defense. Wilkerson’s status as one of the most productive and versatile defensive linemen in football puts him in position for a big pay day. If Wilkerson plays under the one-year franchise tender, he’ll make $15.7 million in 2016.
The Jets‘ situation has been complicated by a wealth of riches on their own line and a limited amount of cap space. Valuable defensive tackle Damon Harrison is also a pending free agent, and general manager Mike Maccagnan said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that the goal was to sign both players. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is also a free agent to-be, making Maccagnan’s job that much more difficult.
The tag is the necessary move for the Jets, who should do everything in their power to retain their best post-2000 draft pick not named Darrelle Revis. On a win-now roster, keeping Wilkerson in the building is imperative