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on March 07, 2014 at 2:30 PM, updated March 07, 2014 at 2:36 PM
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In a move that ought to surprise no one, the Jetsintend to use the fifth-year option on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson's contract sometime before the May 2 deadline, according to a report in the New York Daily News.
Wilkerson, drafted No. 30 overall in 2011, is the first Jets player subject to the rookie-wage scale that took effect when a new collective bargaining agreement was signed that year. The CBA mandates that all draft picks be given four-year contracts, but first-round picks like Wilkerson must get four-year deals with a team option for a fifth.
The Daily News report said the Jets and Wilkerson have had talks about a long-term extension. Citing a team source, the Daily Newssaid the Jets have "yet to convey concrete plans to Wilkerson" but that "it has been made abundantly clear that the Jets will prioritize free agency and the draft over the next two months."
There's little reason for the Jets to be in any kind of rush to give Wilkerson an extension.
Why? Because that fifth-year option takes away all leverage from any players drafted in the first round who perform at a high level, as Wilkerson has during his first three seasons with the Jets. Pro Football Focus graded Wilkerson as the eighth-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL in 2013.
Wilkerson's initial four-year deal with $5.56 million in guarantees expires after the coming season. According to the CBA, exercising the option means the Jets could keep Wilkerson in 2015 at a price equal to the average salary of the third- through 25th-highest-paid players at his position.
The National Football Post, using data from spotrac.com, estimated the value of the fifth-year option for defensive ends drafted in the 2011 first round to be $5.25 to $6 million—far below what Wilkerson could command on the open market.
Wilkerson can't do anything about this, either—and he'd be punished severely if he were to try. According to the CBA, if Wilkerson were to hold out, he'd be subject to a fine of $30,000 for every day of training camp absences, plus the equivalent of one week's regular-season pay for every preseason game missed.
The fifth-year option must be exercised before May 3. The CBA mandates that the option-year money becomes guaranteed as soon as the option is triggered. That means the Jets will likely wait right up until that deadline.