Daily Focus: Jets agree to long-term deal with Muhammad Wilkerson
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
What Muhammad Wilkerson extension means for the Jets: In a somewhat surprising move, the New York Jets announced they signed DE Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term extension on Friday, less than an hour before the deadline for players who had been given the franchise tag. The team had said all offseason that they were committed to signing him to a long-term deal, but with a decent amount of money and draft picks already invested in the defensive line along with limited cap space, many were pessimistic that a deal would actually get done. Contract numbers haven’t been officially released, but reports have it as a five-year contract worth $85 million and nearly $37 million guaranteed over the first two years and $53.5 million guaranteed for injury.
That is a significant amount of money to invest, but Wilkerson has proven to be among the best at his position. Wilkerson has graded among the Top-5 3-4 defensive ends in three of the past four years, finishing in second behind only J.J. Watt twice in that span. With some changes on defense last year Wilkerson was asked to line up in varying defensive line techniques, often as an edge defender. While some players his size may have trouble adjusting to that role, Wilkerson was actually even more productive. In 2015 his 78 total pressures were second to Watt’s 90 among 3-4 DEs and he had just one negatively graded game all season.
Wilkerson’s extension comes at somewhat of a deal for the Jets compared to the Eagles’ recent extension for Fletcher Cox, who is guaranteed more than $55 million by next offseason. Wilkerson has played at a higher level for a longer duration. With the salary cap continuing to rapidly rise, the Jets should still have enough cap room in future years to work with once they get through this coming season.
The Bills have to adjust in the aftermath of the Karlos Williams suspension: The NFL announced that Bills RB Karlos Williams has been suspended for the first four games of the season, which includes three opponents with 10 or more wins last year. Williams played behind starter LeSean McCoy, receiving 247 snaps as a rookie with 104 offensive touches. Although Williams had a lesser workload, he outperformed McCoy in many ways. Williams’ average yards per carry was 1.2 yards greater than McCoy’s, and he also averaged 0.9 more yards after contact. Williams ranked eighth in elusive rating, compared to McCoy at 31 out of 52 qualifying backs. The Bills can survive without him, as McCoy is still a good runner and has proven he can handle a full workload without a spell back, but it may have an effect on how fresh McCoy is when getting some of those touches. As for Williams, it is another concern this offseason following the reports that he showed up to OTAs out of shape.
(PFF Fantasy Insight: The question of the handcuff in Buffalo is an ever-growing one, after Williams’ weight issues and suspension, and the DWI arrest of fellow Buffalo RB Jonathan Williams. Karlos Williams was one of our running backs with RB1 potential, but at this point it’s hard to imagine drafting him at all.)
Aaron Lynch suspension comes as 49ers’ early schedule is rough: Williams wasn’t the only player to be suspended on Friday, with the league also announcing 49er LB Aaron Lynch’s four-game suspension. His unavailability will be a big loss for the 49ers’ defense, particularly since they face both the Panthers and Seahawks on the road during the first quarter of the season. Lynch was very effective in his first full season as a starter, especially as a pass-rusher, and was the only linebacker to earn a positive overall grade last season. He had a 14.1 pass rushing productivity with 62 total pressures, which ranked in the Top 5 among 3-4 outside linebackers and just one spot behind Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
Last year’s third round draft pick Eli Harold along with Corey Lemonier will be the likely benefactors during Lynch’s absence. Harold earned a neutral grade for the season as a rookie during limited playing time. Lemonier played a little less, but his performance was considerably worse as he earned negative grades in both run defense and as a pass rusher. On 112 pass rush snaps, he had just seven total pressures. With Ahmad Brooks being on the decline the last few years, it is going to be important for someone to step up while Lynch is suspended, or hope to generate more pressure from the defensive line.