Sources: Muhammad Wilkerson might not report to Jets training camp

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

While Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract impasse has dominated the headlines, the New York Jets could have an ugly situation developing on the other side of the ball with Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.

Unhappy that he still doesn't have a long-term contract, Wilkerson won't sign his franchise-tag tender anytime soon and might not report for the start of training camp in late July, sources said Monday.

Wilkerson will skip the team's mandatory minicamp, which begins Tuesday. Because he hasn't signed his tender, he can't be fined for not participating in the three-day event.

He is still rehabbing a surgically repaired broken leg, sustained in the final game of the season, so he wouldn't have been able to practice anyway in minicamp. His absence will shock no one in the organization, but the tenor will change if he decides to stay away from training camp.

Wilkerson is upset because other defensive linemen have received lucrative contracts this offseason. The latest is Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who signed a six-year extension late Monday afternoon.

Cox's deal is worth $103 million, including $63 million in guarantees, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. It's the biggest guarantee for a non-quarterback in NFL history.

Wilkerson believes he's worth at least that amount, but the Jets apparently aren't willing to pay anywhere close to that.

By rule, teams have until July 15 to sign franchised-tagged players to long-term contracts. Failing a new deal, the player must play for his one-year tender. In Wilkerson's case, it would be $15.7 million.

Unless he signs his tender, Wilkerson can't be fined for not reporting to training camp because, technically, he wouldn't be under contract. For Wilkerson, who has skipped the voluntary portion of the past two offseasons, a no-show in training camp would be his loudest statement.

The Jets have been saying for two years, going back to the previous regime, that they'd like to re-sign Wilkerson, but they've made no progress in negotiations. They were open to trading him before the past two drafts but found no serious suitors. They haven't ruled out the possibility of tagging him again next year, which would be $18.8 million.

Wilkerson has been rehabbing privately at the Jets' facility in recent weeks. The 26-year-old lineman led the team with 12 sacks last season, a career high.

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