clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should the Jets Pay Muhammad Wilkerson What the Eagles Are Paying Fletcher Cox?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles broke the bank to keep Pro Bowl defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. Cox walked away with a $103 million deal over 6 years. A reported $63 million was guaranteed. Many observers have said that Cox's deal could be the parameters of what Muhammad Wilkerson is seeking. The two are different players. Wilkerson has an extra year under his belt. Would you be willing to see the Jets pay that kind of money? Let's look at some of the angles to such a decision.

The Defensive Line Talent Angle

The Jets do have two more premium interior defensive line talents in Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams. Wilkerson is a terrific player. but does it make sense for the team to shell out big dollars that could be applied to other parts of the roster when the defensive line would still be very good without him.

The Sheldon Richardson Angle

While it is true the Jets do have more premium parts on the same part of the line, the team will need to make a decision about Richardson in the next two seasons. After a turbulent year off the field, one could imagine the Jets being hesitant about committing to Richardson long-term. For his part, he has signaled that the Jets will not have an easier time locking him up than they have with Wilkerson. There is something else to consider, and I do not think people think about the next point enough. At least right now Muhammad Wilkerson is a better player than Sheldon Richardson. Richardson's athleticism is more eye-popping on the field. You could argue he has a higher ceiling. When it comes to production, your case would probably be stronger if you argued Wilkerson has been better to date.

The Best Player Angle

Cox just got the most guaranteed money of any nonquarterback in league history according to report. He is not the best nonquarterback in the league. Neither is Wilkerson.

The Inflation Angle

Salaries keep rising precipitously in the NFL. The salary cap keeps going up. It has risen by at least $10 million four straight years. It is not a guarantee it will rise forever, but revenues are not getting worse for the NFL. Giving a player a big deal today might not look so bad in the future. If the Jets had locked up Wilkerson at say $13-14 million two years ago, it would be looking pretty solid these days. It might have felt exorbitant at the time.

The Grass Is Always Greener Angle

This is the counter to the argument that the Jets should use the money to upgrade other parts of the roster. That is easier said than done. Wilkerson might not be offering the Jets a discount, but any players who become available in free agency have done the same with their team. This is a league where Olivier Vernon is getting a deal averaging $17 million per year. Back in 2013, many fans said it would be crazy to pay Darrelle Revis $16 million a year. Many of these same fans praised the Jets for doing just that two years later after the team spent unsuccessfully in free agency after losing Revis. (Even though the Jets were known for sitting on their cash during this timeframe, there was a bunch of inefficient spending to build the roster.)

What Would You Do?

I think this would be a very difficult call. I'm not sure I could blame the Jets either way. I would probably lean on the side of locking Wilkerson up, though. In the NFL, you win with premium talent. It isn't easy to find. Once you land it, you need to keep it if at all possible. I understand the arguments against it, but the Jets have one of the most creative defensive coaches in the league, and there are ways to get Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams all on the field at the same time. The Jets do not have to make a decision on Richardson for two years. At that point, maybe the move would be to trade Wilkerson, which would be easier to do a couple of years into a new deal.