Muhammad Wilkerson's contract status is one of the most important issues facing the Jets heading into the offseason. He is under team control for one more year at an affordable rate. Wilkerson followed a second team All Pro season in 2013 with another strong campaign in 2014.
He missed three games to injury, and his sack total fell almost in half to 5.5. This wasn't necessarily unexpected, though. Wilkerson's position does not lend itself to a lot of sacks. Richard Seymour was one of the best players of his era, and he never topped 8 sacks. Wilkerson's 10 sack campaign in 2013 is likely going to be more exception than rule.
What Wilkerson does is win his assignment consistently. He is versatile to line up everywhere from right over the ball to end in a 4-3 defense and get penetration. Todd Bowles is going to really enjoy moving Wilkerson around to create mismatches.
That brings us back to the contract situation. I think a lot of people are nervous because the last time the Jets needed to lock up their best player, it created a lot of problems. This is different. For starters, Wilkerson has yet to show he will use every tool at his disposal to extract every last dollar from his team. Perhaps even more significantly, the Jets negotiated away their right to use the franchise tag on Darrelle Revis in the cornerback's 2010 contract. The Jets still have that option with Wilkerson as a fallback. Even if nothing else goes right, the Jets have the power to keep Wilkerson in green and white in 2015 because of the franchise tag.
How much should the Jets pay Wilkerson? I think there are top of the line players whose very presence changes the way the opponent approaches the game. They are the Watt types. You figure out a way to keep them. I think Wilkerson is a step below. He is still a very valuable asset. When I look at a comparable contract, Calais Campbell's deal around $11 million per season seems like a good starting point. With the cap going up and contracts exploding with it, Wilkerson quite possibly could get more. How much more is the question. A good deal would probably not be much higher.