Rich Cimini's Sunday morning report discusses the difficulty of pulling off a trade for Muhammad Wilkerson.
I spoke to officials from four different teams at the owners meetings, and they all said they'd be surprised if the Jets execute a tag-and-trade with Muhammad Wilkerson. "Next to impossible" was how one official described the chances of a deal happening. It's not because teams doubt Wilkerson's ability; it's the price.
Any team that trades for the Pro Bowl defensive end would have to pay the player (figure at least $50 million in guarantees) and compensate the Jets. The consensus is that anything less than a first-round pick would be highway robbery.
This is the situation in a nutshell. A team might be willing to pay a Draft bounty to land Wilkerson. A team might be willing to give Wilkerson a huge contract. It is a lot to ask for a team to do both.
If I had to guess, I would say it is much more likely than not Wilkerson plays for the Jets in 2016 for this reason. The biggest short-term argument for trading Wilkerson was opening over $15 million in salary cap space, but the usefulness of that is gone. There aren't many free agents left to spend that excess cap space on. The Jets can make smaller scale moves to maneuver their way around any modest signings they need to make.
Of course the possibility of a trade remains on the table for a long-term reason. The Jets have been unable to lock up Wilkerson long-term. They might end up faced with the possibility of losing their best asset for nickels and dimes on the dollar or lose him for nothing next year. The Jets are going to have much more flexibility to spend a year from now so they could not even count on a compensatory pick.
I used to think a second franchise tag in a year was a remote possibility for Wilkerson, but that might become a viable solution. In the best case scenario, a second franchise tag would cost the Jets just short of $19 million. If there isn't a good enough deal on the table right now, the Jets could wait and let the year play out. They'd get another season out of Wilkerson and then they could take a similar trade to the one they could get now with a team that wanted to work out a long-term extension. The $19 million would be gone once he signed the extension.
Anything can happen. Few options look appealing at this point.