Jets to try to re-sign free agent Wilkerson despite his leg surgery

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets expect Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to miss six months with a surgically repaired broken leg, but they still hope to re-sign to soon-to-be free agent, general manager Mike Maccagnan said Thursday.

"The simple answer is yes, we'd very much like to have Muhammad back in the organization," Maccagnan said at his season-ending sit-down with reporters.

Wilkerson fractured his right fibula in the season-ending loss to the Buffalo Bills, and he underwent surgery a few days later. Until Thursday, the team hadn't revealed a timetable for his recovery.

The timing is terrible for Wilkerson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. But there is virtually no chance of him reaching the open market. Maccagnan strongly suggested that Wilkerson will receive the franchise tag if the Jets can't sign him to a long-term contract before the March 7 deadline.

Maccagnan said the injury will have a minimal impact on Wilkerson's contract situation.

"He should be ready for camp," he said, mentioning the possibility of the physically-unable-to-perform list for the start of training camp in late July.

The two sides tried to negotiate a long-term contract before the season, but they never got close to an agreement. Wilkerson played for $6.97 million, the amount of his fifth-year option. He recorded a career-high 12 sacks to earn his first Pro Bowl selection.

Maccagnan was light-lipped with regard to the team's offseason plans, but he reiterated what coach Todd Bowles said at the end of the season: The Jets want to re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started every game and set the team record for touchdown passes (31).

The general manager was less definitive on the future of backup quarterback Geno Smith, who is under contract for 2016. He said he wants to "see how Geno and Bryce [Petty] progress in the offseason and go from there, and that's assuming we're able to re-sign Ryan."

Maccagnan also said he'd like to re-sign nose tackle Damon Harrison, another pending free agent, but he hinted that salary-cap constraints could be a factor.

The Jets finished 10-6 under the new regime, headed by Maccagnan and Bowles, but they tarnished the season by blowing a playoff spot with the season-ending loss to the Bills. Maccagnan called it a "disappointing" finish but added: "We're happy with the progress we've made."

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