LINDEN, N.J. — Muhammad Wilkerson showed Friday night that he’s a giving person. But he didn’t sound as if he’ll be giving any ground to the Jets in contract negotiations.
The Pro Bowl defensive end continued to express frustration over his contract negotiations with the Jets while speaking with reporters at his foundation’s bowling event in his hometown. Wilkerson, who has not yet signed his $15.7-million franchise tag tender, maintained his stance that he knows his worth.
Wilkerson was asked if he’ll report to training camp or hold out if an agreement is not reached.
“I’m not going to answer that question right now because there’s no deal in place,” he said. “So nobody knows what will happen.”
Wilkerson, 26, is coming off a season in which he recorded a career-high 12 sacks in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. Wilkerson, who suffered a broken leg in the Jets final game of the season, has been seeking a long-term deal since 2014.
“I feel like I deserve it, a deal,” said Wilkerson, whose foundation, T.E.A.M. 96, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to high school athletes and raises scholarships for students in Union County and Long Island, was hosting the third annual Strikes for Scholarships bowling event at Jersey Lanes. “I understand it’s a business. But my focus right now is just rehabbing the leg and getting ready.”
Wilkerson, who has been rehabbing at the Jets training facility, said he has been running for several weeks. He did not attended voluntary OTA sessions with the Jets and also skipped a three-day minicamp, which concluded on Thursday. Because Wilkerson is not under contract, he can’t be fined.
The Jets have until July 15 to sign Wilkerson to a long-term deal or he will be forced to play under the franchise tag amount. Wilkerson wouldn’t say whether he would holdout into the season.
“Yeah, I’m surprised,” he said referring to his stalled contract talks. “Frustrated. But what can I do? What can I say?”
One reason for the Jets’ hesitance could be their depth at the position with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, who the Jets drafted with the sixth pick in the 2015 draft. Another could be the exorbitant market price that was set for defensive lineman earlier this week when Eagles lineman Fletcher Cox signed a $103-million, six-year extension.
“I’m happy for those guys,” Wilkerson said of Cox, who had 9.5 sacks last season. “But I know what I deserve.”