Check out our breakdown on Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller’s contract details here.
New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson signed a 5-year, $86-million deal on Friday, July 15, 2016, before the 4 p.m. deadline expired for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term contract. In total, the deal contains a $15 million signing bonus, an average salary of $17.2 million, and $53.5 million guaranteed. ESPN’s Adam Schefter (@) first reported the news.
Over the course of his first five NFL seasons, the former Temple University standout produced 301 combined tackles, 36.5 sacks, and 9 forced fumbles. He was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2013 and 2015 and named to the Pro Bowl in 2015 as well.
The Jets offered Wilkerson, a former 2011 1st round selection and represented by Chad Wiestling (Integrated Sports Management), a 1-year, $15.7-million deal (Franchise Tag) on February 29, 2016, but he never signed the contract for it to take effect. Instead, Wilkerson takes home a much bigger paycheck than the $15.7 million associated with his Franchise Tag.
In fact, Wilkerson is guaranteed $36.75 million upfront with the new deal, which consists of his signing bonus ($15 million), his 2016 base salary ($7 million), and 2017 base salary ($14.75 million).
Similar to Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller’s deal, Wilkerson’s salary peaks in the third year (2018-19) as he will earn $16.75 million. This figure becomes fully guaranteed in March 2018. Thus, Wilkerson will earn $36.75 million guaranteed through the deal’s first two years and $53.5 million guaranteed through the first three years pending that he is on the roster in March 2018.
(Note: $53.5 million guaranteed look familiar? It’s the guaranteed figure that was originally reported). Subsequently, Wilkerson’s base salary for 2019 is $15.75 million and stays the same in 2020.
What Does the Dead Money and Cap Savings Situation Look Like?
Similar to Denver Broncos and GM John Elway’s cap savings situation with Miller, the Jets and GM Mike Maccagnan may ultimately release Wilkerson after the 2017 season for salary cap purposes.
That is, Wilkerson’s contract entails $9 million in dead cap (i.e. “the amount of cap space taken up by players no longer on the roster“) and a $20 million salary cap number (base salary ($16.75m) + prorated signing bonus ($3m) + workout bonus ($250k)). Crunching the numbers, the Jets would save $11 million in the event that the team releases Wilkerson after the 2017 season or during the 2018 offseason.
Now this does not mean that the Jets are home free — Wilkerson will still take up $9 million in the team’s 2018 salary cap space without even being on the roster. OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald noted that “a $9M dead charge in year 3 is pretty significant.”
Of course, the more years that go by as to reach the total length of the deal (five years), the more that the Jets will save for salary cap purposes and the lesser dead cap charge that the contract will carry. For example, the team will save $13 million in 2019 ($6 million dead cap, $19 million salary cap number) and $16 million in 2020 ($3 million dead cap, $19 million salary cap number).
At the end of the day, though, it all boils down to balancing the budget, a la the salary cap, whereby the Jets and Maccagnan may be forced to cut ties with Wilkerson and his camp earlier than No.96 would like.
In effect, the Jets simply gave Wilkerson a promise or an engagement ring — it is unlikely that the two will ever meet at the altar, er, stay together for the next five years. But if Wilkerson continues to produce at the high-caliber level that he displayed the past five years and the Jets properly handle their salary cap situation, the New Jersey native may don the green and white for the foreseeable future.
*Contract numbers via Spotrac