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Reports: Jets Appear Poised To Slap Franchise Tag On Wilkerson

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- That fizzling sound you'll hear soon will originate from Florham Park, New Jersey.

That's where the Jets' brain trust is holed up this offseason and plotting the franchise's course off a surprising 10-6 season that was ruined in Week 17.

As we all know, the Jets didn't make the playoffs due to their maddening inability to beat their former head coach, Rex Ryan. They are now faced with several decisions that will go a long way toward determining just how viable the possibility of a postseason berth will be next season.

First and foremost on the list is deciding what to do with Muhammad Wilkerson. The Pro Bowl defensive end, who is coming off the best season of his career, has wanted a new, long-term contract for a long time, but he's gotten nowhere with the Jets, who appear determined only to sign him on their terms.

MORE: Palladino: At The Very Least, Wilkerson Must Be A Jet In 2016

Throughout the process, which has included but few fruitful negotiations over the last year, the possibility of the Jets putting the franchise tag on Wilkerson has appeared to be the most obvious -- and temporary -- solution. According to multiple reports over the weekend, that appears to be precisely what the Jets will do, and as early as Tuesday, the first day teams can designate their players with the tag.

When it happens, Wilkerson, who registered 64 tackles and a career-high 12.5 sacks last season, will be assured of a projected $15.5 million salary in 2016, but that doesn't mean he will definitely remain a Jet.

Under the non-exclusive tag, which is reportedly what the Jets will use, Wilkerson will be free to negotiate with other teams and if he signs an offer sheet the Jets would have five days to match. If they choose not to, they would receive two first-round picks as compensation.

The Jets could also tag Wilkerson and then trade him, but that seems less likely because another team would first have to meet his demands -- which are believed to include at least $40 million guaranteed -- and then hand over a significant package of players and/or picks to the Jets.

Of course, general manager Mike Maccagnan could find common ground with the former first-round pick, which would make both sides happy. The problem is, the window to sign Wilkerson to a long-term deal is only open until July 15. After that date, nothing can be done until after the 2016 season.

What appears to be working in both sides' favor is the fact that the NFL salary cap is reportedly expected to skyrocket to around $155 million this year, a jump of approximately $12 million from 2015. That should help the Jets in their negotiations with stud Damon Harrison, who is expected to be the most sought-after defensive tackle on the free agent market, and could, perhaps, influence their stance on Wilkerson.

Stay tuned.

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