Extension Projection: Muhammad Wilkerson

Extension Projection: Muhammad Wilkerson
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Contract Forecast: Muhammad Wilkerson

The Jets made a bit of noise on the first day of the 2015 NFL Draft, by selecting DT Leonard Williams (clearly the best available at the time) to add to an already sensational young duo of Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. Contractually though, it's Wilkerson who raises the biggest concern, as the 2011 1st round selection is set to play out his $6.969 million 5th year option in 2015.

With plenty of notable defensive deals hitting the books already this offseason, it would benefit Wilkerson to seek an extension prior to the start of the year, piggy-backing off a slew of high guaranteed cash coming in recently. However the Jets are facing an uphill battle already next season, with $151.3M allocated to 57 signed players for the 2016 season. With other notable contracts set to expire (Damon Harrison, Demario Davis), the expectations for affording Wilkerson are low at this point, and the $15M franchise tag they'd need to use to keep him around otherwise might be too steep to fit into their current cap.

All said, we'll compare Wlkerson's statistical production over the past few seasons to a group of other 3-4 defensive ends who signed extensions at a similar age with their respective teams to produce a value forecast for what his forthcoming contract might look like.

Comparable 3-4 Defensive Ends
To generate a prediction the Spotrac team determined that the following linebackers were viable targets to use in comparing with Wilkerson. The key was to locate players with similar numbers, who signed their second contract around the age of 25. To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Guaranteed Age When Signed
J.J. Watt  (HOU) 6 $100,005,425 $16,667,571 $51,876,000 25
Mario Williams (BUF) 6 $96,000,000 $16,000,000 $31,400,000 27
Cameron Heyward  (PIT) 6 $59,200,000 $9,866,667 $15,000,000 26
Cameron Jordan (NO) 5 $55,000,000 $11,000,000 $33,469,000 25
Averages 5.75 $77,551,356 $13,383,559 $36,586,250 25.75

We'll adjust their contracts up to reflect each as if it were signed at the age of 25 to provide a better scope for our base prediction.

Related:  View the list of Top Average Defensive Ends in the NFL

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
5 $68,462,621 $13,692,524

Statistical Comparisons
Now we'll assess Wilkerson statistically against our variable defensive ends, taking a look at Games Played, Sacks per Game, Tackles per Game, and Stops per Games, and QB Hurries per game.
Player G/YR SACKs/G TKL/G SToP/G HUR/G
J.J. Watt  (12-13, HOU) 16 .96875 4.1875 4.34 2.125
Cameron Heyward  (13-14, PIT) 16 .39 2.1875 3.4375 2.1875
Cameron Jordan (13-14, NO) 16 .625 1.875 1.625 3.125
Mario Williams (10-11, HOU) 9 .75 1.77 2.33 4
AVERAGES 14.25 .68 2.505 2.93 2.85
Mo Wilkerson (13-14, NYJ) 14.5 .57 2.55 2.75 1.72
% Change 1.75% -16.76% 1.8% -6.24% -39.85%
AVERAGE PRIME PERCENTAGE: -11.86%
MEDIAN PRIME PErcentage: -6.24%
Wilkerson is slightly below our set of variables in most of the major statistical categories, most notably in terms of hurrying the QB. This may be a biproduct of split, quality production with his battery-mate Richardson. We'll apply his prime percentages into our original base contract value to determine his current value.

Guaranteed Money

Wilkerson had been extremely reliable up until late 2014 when a toe injury forced him out of 3 Jets games. He carries little to no red flags in terms of guaranteed money. ** We've estimated Heyward's guarantees at 50% of his total contract.

Player Value True Guarantees % Guaranteed
J.J. Watt $100,005,425 $51,876,000 51.87%
Mario Williams $96,000,000 $31,400,000 32.71%
Cameron Jordan $55,000,000 $33,469,000 60.85%
Cameron Heyward $59,200,000 $15,000,000 25.3%
Adjusted Regression 59%

Results

Length of the Contract
J.J. Watt built the ceiling for defensive ends last offseason with his 6 year $100M extension in Houston. Recent signings have ranged between 5 and 6 years, and at just 25 years old to start the 2015 season, it's likely Wilkerson adds 5 years on to his upcoming salary.

Thoughts on Valuing the Contract
Our base contract provided us with a deal that averaged nearly $13.7M per year, good for 5th most among signed DEs currently. It's important to note that Wilkerson is already under contract for $6.969M in 2015, and could be slapped with a franchise tag in 2016 that's set to be worth around $15M, so without blinking an eye, the Jets are already in for at least $22M in guaranteed money when negotiating a new contract. Somewhat surprisingly, Wilkerson didn't hold up well statistically against the notable top-tier DE signings. When factoring in his impressive prime percentages based on statistical production this figure increases to a figure he's likely much more pleased with.

Low Value (HOMETOWN DISCOUNT)
Utilizing our Average Prime Percentage (-11.86%), we're forecasting Wilkerson as the 7th highest average paid DE:
5 years, $60,000,000 | $12,000,000 per year | $35,400,000 guaranteed
High Value (MAX-VALUE DEAL)
Utilizing our Median Prime Percentage (-6.24%), we're forecasting Wilkerson as the 5th highest average paid DE:
5 years, $64,190,000 | $12,838,000 per year | $37,800,000 guaranteed

We'll split the difference to offer the best-value forecast for Muhammad Wilkerson's new money extension:

Spotrac's Prediction: 5 years, $62,300,000
Average annual salary $12,460,000, estimated $36,750,000 guaranteed

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