NEW YORK (AP) After months of frustration and uncertainty, Muhammad Wilkerson got the long-term contract he believed he deserved.
The New York Jets pulled off a last-minute stunner, signing the Pro Bowl defensive end to a five-year extension and beating Friday's deadline after which Wilkerson would have had to play this season under the franchise tag amount of $15.7 million.
The deal is worth more than $85 million, including $37 million in guarantees through the first two years, according to a person familiar with the contract. Through three years of the deal, Wilkerson will be paid $54 million in guaranteed money, added the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not announce financial terms of contracts.
The 26-year-old Wilkerson had a career-high 12 sacks last season and was selected for his first Pro Bowl, but was unable to play after breaking his right leg in the season finale at Buffalo. The 2011 first-round draft pick had said this offseason he was disappointed at not receiving a new deal from the Jets, who instead placed the franchise tag on him.
It appeared the sides would not be able to reach an agreement before the deadline at 4 p.m. EDT, when franchised players had to sign new contracts or be forced to wait to renegotiate until next offseason.
But just as many fans began to take to social media, upset at a deal not getting done, the Jets announced on Twitter that they had signed Wilkerson to a multiyear contract. For good measure, they added a photo of Wilkerson signing his new deal. In a short video posted by the team, Wilkerson said it was for five years.
''I give my all every Sunday on the field and play with so much love and passion for the game,'' Wilkerson wrote on Twitter. ''I'm thankful for everything that comes my way and proud to say I'm back on the green and white for a few more years.''
Wilkerson has been asking for a new deal for the past two years, but watched anxiously as other players at similar positions, such as Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox (six years, $103 million), received extensions. There was increasing sentiment that Wilkerson could opt to not show for the start of training camp later this month - and he wouldn't be fined since he hadn't yet signed his franchise tender.
That would have potentially made an increasingly tense situation worse.
Wilkerson could have become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, but there was also the possibility that the Jets could use the franchise tag on him again.
Despite the uncertain contract situation, Wilkerson had spent time at the Jets' facility during the offseason while working his way back from the injury. As of last month, Wilkerson said he had been running for ''several weeks,'' but it's unclear if he will be healthy enough to practice at the start of training camp.
Several of Wilkerson's excited teammates congratulated him on Twitter, with wide receiver Brandon Marshall writing: ''Getting (at)mowilkerson locked in was huge for our locker room. Congrats bro!! Thank you (at)nyjets.''
Added fellow defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson: ''Boi if u could see my face when I seen my (time line). big dawg congrats Fam. well deserved. bout time!!!!! you know I'm geeked for ya. get healthy. lets keep eating. got my Bro back.''
Wilkerson, from Linden, New Jersey, gets to stay home to play for at least five more years after compiling 36 1/2 sacks through his first five NFL seasons. The former Temple star has 372 total tackles, seven forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 77 career games.
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