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Jets’ GM Maccagnan: Drafting Leonard Williams “Doesn’t Really Impact” Muhammad Wilkerson

Muhammad Wilkerson

The New York Jets unexpectedly were able to land the 2015 NFL draft’s best defensive player, lineman Leonard Williams, with the sixth-overall pick. Given that, before the draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that “at least two teams” had approached the Jets with trade offers for standout defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, it seemed as though Wilkerson and the Jets were heading towards a separation after their selection of Williams.

But now, it appears that Wilkerson will remain with the Jets for at least the 2015 season, if not longer. The Williams pick, according to general manager Mike Maccagnan, has no bearing on Wilkerson’s roster or playing status for the Jets this year.

In speaking on ESPN Radio in New York on Thursday, Maccagnan said (via Pro Football Talk) that, “It’s a good situation. My thing is this: It’s kind of up to [head coach] Todd [Bowles] to best utilize his resources at that position. Going forward, it doesn’t really impact Mo directly in that sense.” He added that Williams was the pick simply because he was “too good to pass up.”

Wilkerson was Pro Football Focus’ (subscription required) third-ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2014, one spot behind teammate Sheldon Richardson. Wilkerson had 55 combined tackles last season, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five passes defensed. In four seasons, he’s totaled 24 sacks, 236 combined tackles and 14 passes defensed. He is currently in the final year of his contract, but the Jets project to have ample salary cap space in 2016, money they can use to sign Wilkerson to a new deal or even give him the franchise tag.

Williams will certainly be another boost to what has already been a punishing Jets defensive line. His presence could even drive down the price of Wilkerson’s next contract. But in 2015, Wilkerson will remain with his team. Maccagnan said that the Jets are not “actively shopping” the veteran, something that bodes well for his chances to continue his Jets career. It just may come at a different price than he had initially expected.

Photo: USA Today Sports