Peter Morgan, File
March 01, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Tag, Mo's it.

The New York Jets placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on Tuesday, assuring that he will not become an unrestricted free agent when the NFL's signing period begins next week.

The move was announced by the team on Tuesday shortly after the NFL's 4 p.m. deadline to use the franchise or transition tag on a scheduled free agent.

Wilkerson 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 26-year-old Wilkerson, who has been seeking a long-term extension, could also be traded.

Under the non-exclusive designation, 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.

Wilkerson would have been one of the top defensive players available in free agency if the Jets allowed him to hit the open market. He was selected for his first Pro Bowl last year and had a career-high 12 sacks in Todd Bowles' defense. He broke his lower right leg in the season finale at Buffalo, but is expected to be ready for Week 1 of the 2016 season. Wilkerson recently wrote on Twitter that doctors have said his rehabilitation appears ahead of schedule.

Wilkerson was a first-round draft pick out of Temple in 2011 and has improved in each season in the NFL. He has 36 1/2 career sacks in five seasons, along with a safety, nine forced fumbles and an interception.

He is the fourth Jets player to receive the franchise tag in the last 10 years, joining kicker Nick Folk (2014), linebacker David Harris (2011) and defensive end John Abraham (2006). The Jets traded Abraham to Atlanta during the NFL draft that year after using the tag on him. Tight end Kyle Brady received the transition player designation in 1999.

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