The New York Jets have placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson. The move ensures Wilkerson will not become an unrestricted free agent when the NFL's League Year commences on March 9.
Wilkerson earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season after racking up a career-high 12 sacks. He has posted double-digit sack totals in two of the past three seasons (10.5 in 2013) and his 28.5 sacks have paced the club since the beginning of 2013.
A first-round selection (No. 30 overall) out of Temple in 2011, Wilkerson's career totals include 36.5 sacks along with 372 tackles (246 solo), 19 PDs and 7 forced fumbles.
The Jets will now have until July 15 to sign Wilkerson to a multiyear contract or extension. He could elect to sign the franchise tender and play in 2016. Wilkerson becomes the fourth Jet to receive the franchise designation in the last 10 years, with that list including DE John Abraham, LB David Harris and K Nick Folk. TE Kyle Brady received the transition player designation in 1999.
"Mo is a very good player," said Jets GM Mike Maccagnan at the NFL Combine. "Obviously we'd like to have him in the organization going forward. At the end of the day, we like Mo very much. We do realize the franchise tag is an option that every team has with their players to potentially hold onto them and try to keep them long-term."
In the Jets' season-ending contest vs. the Bills, Wilkerson broke his right fibula and later underwent successful surgery. Maccagnan said in January the timetable for recovery is typically six months.