It is a common refrain from Jets fans. It is something I have said frequently myself over the last two years. "Muhammad Wilkerson is not worth JJ Watt money." Wilkerson certainly is not a player on Watt's level, but we have reached a point where comparing his contract with a potential new Wilkerson deal is not apples to apples.
Watt received his 6 year, $100 million contract two years ago. It came between his third and fourth NFL seasons. It is important to note that it raised his salaries for his fourth and fifth seasons.
In his fourth season, Watt was scheduled to make a base salary of $1.9 million. His new contract came with a $10 million signing bonus and a 2014 salary of around $900 thousand. So in real dollar terms, Watt came away with around $10.9 million in 2014. The new contract in effect raised his fourth year salary by $10 million.
Had he not signed the new contract, Watt would have played out his fifth year in 2015 at a $6.9 million salary. His new contract came with a $9.9 million salary for 2015.
This is important to note. The Texans were able to dangle a raise of $13 million over two years in front of Watt. In exchange, they might have been able to get concessions from Watt on the back end of the deal.
The Jets did not do that with Wilkerson. Wilkerson got $1.4 million 2014 and $6.9 million in 2015. They don't have the same card to play. There are perfectly valid reasons the Jets conducted their business this way. Part of the advantage of the rookie contract is the ability to get star production at a deep discount. Because there was no deal worked out, though, the Jets cannot expect Wilkerson to grant them long-term flexibility because the team cannot offer him an immediate raise.
This is something to keep in mind. Wilkerson isn't a Watt level player, but the timing of the respective contracts makes their expectations different.