The Buccaneers need to add a pass rusher. Could a member of the Jets be in their future?
We have been talking in these pages for weeks about the Buccaneers’ need for a pass rusher on the edge. They have added Robert Ayers during free agency. They have been connected with the top pass rushers in the draft, such as Joey Bosa and Noah Spence, to name a couple. It has even been mentioned that they could take one in the second round, such as Emmanuel Ogbah. The need is clear.
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The New York Jets have an issue that is complimentary in nature, that could help the Bucs with their problem. Muhammad Wilkerson wants a long-term contract, but at this point, the Jets have been reluctant to give him one. He played out the final year of his rookie contract in 2015, and posted a career high of 12 sacks. Instead of locking him up long-term, he was giving the franchise tag, setting his salary at just over $15 million for 2016.
The trouble is, now the Jets are strapped for cash. They have no money to make moves of any significance, and despite what anyone says, it is causing them to have problems re-signing their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. They are involved in a stalemate that has gone on for months, and fans have begun to wonder who is going to play quarterback, with rumors that they could return to Geno Smith starting to pop up.
Needless to say, the Jets could use the cash, and they already have a talented defensive line with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams. They could survive without Wilkerson.
The New York Daily News entertained the topic of trading Wilkerson for Mike Glennon in their recent Jets’ mailbag. Here is what Jets’ beat reporter Manish Mehta had to say:
"I’ve said it before and will say it again: Mike Maccagnan would be the happiest man on Earth if he could trade Wilkerson for, say, a Top 15 pick in the upcoming draft. He would no longer need his beloved coffee to get through the day: He would be on a natural rush for weeks, months or maybe even years."
He’s absolutely right on this. Trading Muhammad Wilkerson would be a gold mine for the Jets. They would attain multiple draft picks and they would be able to clear money under the salary cap. According to Spotrac, they are currently over the salary cap. The Jets need money as badly as any team ever has.
Now, we look at the Bucs’ perspective. We know there has been a lot of talk about Glennon potentially being dealt. Teams are showing interest in the young quarterback, as Rick Stroud writes in the Tampa Bay Times.
"“There’s always interest. It’s not a secret,” Licht said. “There’s always some interest. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got some time and this is something that could go all the way to the draft.”"
Contrary to reports in New York, Licht is not demanding a first round pick in return for Glennon, but he has also said that he won’t “give him away”. This could be a match made in heaven. The Jets would be the most excited team ever to make a trade if they could get rid of Wilkerson without giving up a premium draft pick, and Wilkerson would be just the edge pass rusher that the Bucs need.
Not to mention the fact that Glennon would get the chance to be the Jets’ quarterback of the future.
So what’s the problem?
Wilkerson is going to command a lot of money, to the tune of a contract likely in excess of $40 million. Do the Bucs want to make that commitment? Wilkerson is a proven commodity, as opposed to draft picks that are never a guarantee. Right now, Spotrac estimates the Bucs’ available cap space at $19.3 million. They likely can create a contract to Wilkerson’s liking.
But, he is coming off of a serious leg injury. He broke his leg in the Jets’ final game, and is working his way back. He says he is ahead of schedule, but do we really know? We won’t see Wilkerson’s development until he walks onto a field. We will then, finally, see if he is the same player again. Do the Bucs want to make a commitment to a player coming off of a serious injury?
If they do, the Jets and the Bucs would make good trade partners. A Glennon/Wilkerson trade makes sense for both teams.