Muhammad Wilkerson will open the season healthier and wealthier than how he ended it.
At least that is the plan for the Jets defensive lineman after he beat the franchise-tag deadline Friday by signing a five-year, $85-million contract. Wilkerson, who has spent the offseason rehabbing the right leg he broke in the season finale against the Bills, said Wednesday that he plans to be in uniform for the season opener against the Bengals on Sept. 11.
“I will be ready for Week One,” Wilkerson said Wednesday in a conference call.
Wilkerson said he is not sure whether he will be able to practice or will be placed on the physically unable to perform list when training camp opens next week. He said, however, that the rehab has been going well and he’s up to running four times a week. With his contract situation settled, he said he can devote all of his energy to getting back on the field as quickly as possible.
“I’m just happy to get a deal done,” Wilkerson said. “I’m glad that part of the situation is over and I can focus on football and getting ready for the season . . . I definitely wanted to be here. I’m from New Jersey. I’m from here. My family’s here and I want to raise my family here, so I’m very excited to be here.”
Wilkerson, 26, went to Linden High School and played at Temple in Philadelphia.
Wilkerson and his agent had been seeking a deal close to the one signed in 2014 by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, a four-time All-Pro who is making $100 million over six years. The contract standoff came to a surprise end just when it seemed as if Wilkerson would have to play for a franchise tag.
The 6-4, 315-pound Wilkerson had a team-high 12 sacks last season for a defense that allowed a paltry 83.4 rushing yards a game, second in the league. He has 36.5 sacks and 184 tackles in five seasons with the Jets. He believes their defense can be even better.
“The sky is the limit with the defense,” he said. “We can be as good as we want to be as long as everyone is putting the work in every day.”
Wilkerson also implied he expects the Jets to be a playoff team.
“I think we just have to keep building off of last year,’’ he said. “We had a good record of 10-6 and didn’t get to the postseason, so we have to make sure we build off that to make sure we get into the postseason.”