By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
As the Giants continue searching for new people, new messages, and new ways they hope will bring better results in 2016, the Jets have their own decisions to make.READ MORE: Candidate Conversations: Curtis Sliwa
They are much different than their co-MetLife Stadium tenants, of course. General manager Mike Maccagnan doesn’t have to worry about finding a head coach, only whether to keep or dump certain members of a 10-6 roster.
Like Muhammad Wilkerson.
Actually, the decisions on the teams’ pass-rush stars are about the only things that bind them together. Sooner or later, Giants GM Jerry Reese will have to decide what Jason Pierre-Paul’s one sack and 3½-fingered right hand is worth, and then he may have to try to convince JPP that, no, he is no longer one of the league’s elite pass rushers, and never will be again.
Pierre-Paul already appears to have his own ideas on the matter, so it will be interesting to see where that goes after his impending surgery restores some range of motion and cuts the pain in the hand fireworks blew up on Independence Day.
Though JPP will tell anyone willing to lend an ear that he expects to play at a championship level next year, Reese and whoever moves into Tom Coughlin’s old office won’t be quick to throw $16 million worth of franchise tag at him. Not while he remains in “prove it” mode for the foreseeable future.
Wilkerson, too, is an unrestricted free agent; the top sacker among all defensive linemen in this year’s class with 12. He, too, has his own problems, like the right leg that broke in the finale against Buffalo.
How much is a pass rusher with a bum leg worth on the open market? In Wilkerson’s world, plenty. And it should be a lot in Maccagnan’s world, too.
Surgeons repaired the fibula last Wednesday, and now it’s a question of time and healing. But understand that this was merely a broken bone which a lot of players incur, not a search for the missing digit. Right index fingers can’t be replaced, at least not for football purposes. Trying to bring down a quarterback with half a thumb doesn’t make the job any easier, either.READ MORE: Bullet Believed To Have Been Fired By Alec Baldwin Recovered From Film Director's Shoulder
Wilkerson will come back at full, effective strength. Maccagnan’s problem is whether he deems his pass-rusher worth the money. With first-round pick Leonard Williams showing well, and Sheldon Richardson a year away from free agency, how Maccagnan will spend his relatively paltry $11 million of cap room will decide whether Wilkerson stays or goes.
He has to keep him, at least for one more season, so the franchise tag seems logical.
A few contracts will have to be restructed, like the massive $17 million salary Darrelle Revis has coming to him next season. But considering Revis’ decline from “Island” to a still-impressive luxury port, even he would understand that keeping the Wilkerson-Richardson pairing together another year will only help him keep the secondary in order.
And if Maccagnan has any ideas about signing Wilkerson to a franchise contract and then trading him for a ton of draft picks, the answer here is get it out of there quickly.
Wilkerson will do nicely right here in the Meadowlands.
One more year together is what the Jets need out of the Wilkerson-Richardson tandem.
And then Maccagnan can do what he wants after 2016, once Bowles’ team ends their postseason run.
When it comes right down to it, Maccagnan’s decision isn’t a big one at all.
Reese wishes he had such problems.MORE NEWS: Desperate To Find More Staff, Some Fast Food Restaurants Recruiting Customers
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino