NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Muhammad Wilkerson is staying put — at least for now.
A person with knowledge of the team's plans told The Associated Press on Monday that the New York Jets will use the franchise tag on the Pro Bowl defensive end, keeping him from becoming a free agent.
Wilkerson, who has been seeking a long-term extension, will be paid $15.701 million for the 2016 season. He has until July 15 to reach a multiyear deal with the Jets, or he must play the season under the tag.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the team didn't announce the move, which was expected. Teams have until Tuesday to use the franchise or transition tag on a scheduled free agent.
General manager Mike Maccagnan said after the season the team would "absolutely" consider using the franchise tag. He remained tight-lipped on the Jets' plans last week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, but it appeared both Wilkerson and nose tackle Damon Harrison were possible candidates for the tag.
The franchise designation is worth the average of the top five salaries at a player's position or 120 percent the value of his 2015 salary, whichever is higher. Teams secure the rights to continue negotiations with that player even as the league's free agency period begins, which this year is March 9.
It was not immediately certain if the Jets would use the exclusive tag, meaning Wilkerson is not allowed to negotiate with other teams, or non-exclusive tag, under which the defensive end can negotiate with other teams, but New York can match any offer sheet. With the non-exclusive tag, if the sides can't reach a deal and he signs with another team, New York would be compensated by receiving two first-round draft picks.
The Jets could also opt to try to trade Wilkerson to free salary cap space. Coach Todd Bowles has said he would like to re-sign Harrison, who could command big bucks as one of the top players available at his position.
The 26-year-old Wilkerson, selected for his first Pro Bowl, had a career-high 12 sacks in Bowles' defense. He broke his lower right leg in the season finale at Buffalo, but is expected to be ready for Week 1.
Wilkerson was a first-round draft pick out of Temple in 2011. He has 36 1/2 career sacks in five seasons, along with a safety, nine forced fumbles and an interception.
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