One headache is over.
No, the Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets did not agree to terms.
But they did something that was important to the long-suffering Jets fanbase and the locker room. That was extending Mo Wilkerson to a five-year, $86 million contract before the Friday 4 p.m. deadline of avoiding franchise tag expired. His contract is fully guaranteed for the first two years of that deal.
It was a no-brainer. It had to be done. It’s hard to replace a player of Wilkerson’s ilk. To keep him in the prime of his career is encouraging heading to this season.
The Jets have a happy camper heading to training camp. That is important. The last thing Wilkerson needed was him answering questions about his future with the Jets. The Jets don’t need a player that would have been a lame duck. They also avoided him holding out in the process.
The Jets don’t need another grief about not taking care of their own players. They learned their lesson after not agreeing to terms with Darrelle Revis that forced his trade to the Buccaneers few years ago.
This is a franchise that has historically let their homegrown players leave. Keyshawn Johnson, Kareem McKenzie, Lamont Jordan, Laveranues Coles, John Abraham and Revis come to mind. Trading Wilkerson would signal change is really more of the same rather than real change from the relatively new Jets hierarchy.
Wilkerson is a player the Jets need to keep for a long time. He is a player that should retire as a Jet. He is a game-changer by getting to the quarterback. He had career-high 12 sacks this past season, and he has had 36 sacks in his five seasons as the Jets along with 64 tackles and two forced fumbles.
The first-time Pro Bowler plays well with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams. To have all three players who can sack makes Todd Bowles’ job easy. Those three define the 4-3 defense that made it successful last year. Those three can form a championship defense.
Wilkerson is a guy that leads by example. He plays well, and he is a force at practice. He is a player that will give the Jets everything he got as he has done since Day One. He plays through injuries. There’s certain toughness about him that no one can put a price on.
The bottom line is he is a pro’s pro. Those attributes make him a locker room favorite and a fan favorite.
His signing did not go unnoticed by his teammates. Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall tweeted it was great for the locker room.
One can say the Jets defensive end is well-respected, but here’s why it’s great for the locker room: The players don’t need to have their morale down after the team does not take care of its best player. If Wilkerson is not taken care of, why would other Jets core players trust the team to bring them back when their deals are up?
Maybe this is a sign of a new way the Jets do business under Mike Maccagnan. The Jets general manager has showed he is not afraid to pay players at market value. He demonstrated that last year when he brought back Antonio Cromartie and Revis in his first year at the job.
To bring Wilkerson back is a boost for the Jets, who could use it in light of Fitzpatrick still not being signed. Maybe this is a sign the Jets can find a way to get their quarterback soon.
The fans are happy their homegrown player is actually signed long-term. They have experienced the Jets let their best players go. They needed to know the Jets mean business under new management.
Maccagnan showed them he can get a fair deal for his players. It’s something his predecessors struggled to do whether it’s Mike Tannenbaum or John Idzik.
Fans can trust the second-year Jets general manager to get it done.
Friday’s news was a football move and a public relations move.
It had to be done, and the Jets were able to meet the deadline in getting their player signed.
It’s an encouraging start to training camp. Now, Wilkinson can go to work in the right frame of mind. Bowles don’t need to endure another headache. Jets owner Woody Johnson doesn’t have to deal with the perception of being cheap.
Friday was a day the Jets can be proud of.
On that day, it was not the Same Old Jets.
photo by Lynda Wagner