Our Sunday notes -- a look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Looking into the crystal ball: Three fearless predictions on the Muhammad Wilkerson situation: He will report to training camp next month under his existing contract ($7 million). He will play the 2015 season under said contract. He will get slapped with the franchise tag next offseason. Beyond that, it gets cloudy.
At that point, the Jets could (pick one): Sign him to a long-term deal, let him play for the franchise tender (an estimated $16 million) or execute a tag-and-trade. They also could let him walk away as a free agent and take a 2017 third-round pick as compensation, but that's unlikely.
The tag-and-trade scenario is complicated and risky, which is why we haven't seen too many in recent years. To trade a franchise player, you have to find a team willing to give up significant draft-pick compensation and commit a mega contract to the player. By rule, a team is entitled to two first-round picks if it declines to match an offer sheet for a non-exclusive franchise player, so you can bet it won't accept a whole lot less in a trade situation -- unless it's blatantly obvious the team has no plans to keep the player at a franchise-level salary. That happened in 2009 when the New England Patriots traded quarterback Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs.
From the Jets' perspective, there are many variables that could dictate Wilkerson's future. What kind of player is rookie Leonard Williams? If he's the real deal, Wilkerson becomes expendable. Will Sheldon Richardson continue his ascent? If so, they will have to set aside big bucks to extend his contract in 2017, perhaps squeezing Wilkerson out of the budget. Right now, the Jets have two forms of leverage -- the franchise tag and Williams. You can't blame them for taking a wait-and-see approach. It's good business.
Clearly, Wilkerson deserves a big score. He's everything you want in a player -- talented, dedicated and homegrown. Thing is, unless he lowers his asking price, it's hard to imagine something getting done. I don't think he will bend. He wants Robert Quinn money ($14 million a year and $41 million in guarantees) and I suspect the Jets would offer only Cameron Jordan money ($11 million a year, $33 million in guarantees).
Wilkerson is right: Players who excel on and off the field should be rewarded. But this is a cold business, and he's finding out the hard way.
2. The team, the team, the team: One particular sentence in the statement released last week by Wilkerson's agent caught my eye: "Mo is and has always been a team-first player, and is willing to put the team ahead of his own contractual status." That would make it tough to rationalize a training-camp holdout, wouldn't it?
3. Evan almighty: If I'm the Jets, I'm on the phone to Evan Mathis' agent. I know he's 33 and I know he won't come cheaply, but let's face it: Right guard is a major concern. Mathis, officially released Friday by the Philadelphia Eagles, is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. They should offer him a two-year deal with $6 million guaranteed. The Jets have only $4.9 million in cap space, but there's always a way to tinker with the cap. It reminds me of 2004, when guard Pete Kendall was unexpectedly cut by the Arizona Cardinals on the eve of training camp. The Jets scooped up Kendall, 31 at the time, and he was the final piece for what became a terrific offensive line.
4. Same old, same old: The theme coming out of the offseason is the same as last year and the year before and ... well, you get the idea: The defense is way ahead of the offense. Did some checking: The last time the Jets' offense finished with a higher ranking than the defense (yards allowed) was 2003 -- 19th and 21st. It also happened in 2002 -- 22nd and 24th. Obviously, we're not talking juggernauts here. The last time it happened with a legitimate offense was 1998 -- fourth and seventh. I don't see the trend changing this year.
5. Silly season: The Jets are on a six-week break until training camp. This is the time of year that gives gray hairs to coaches and general managers. The players have too much time on their hands and that can lead to no good. Brandon Marshall, offering his philosophy on the down time, advocated training over partying.
"The reward is greater than the sacrifice," he said. "You can go party now and be out of the league. You can get three or four years in, make a couple of dollars and that'll be it. Or you can sacrifice the time now and live like a rock star forever."
6. Driving Mr. Williams: With an $18.6 million contract, fully guaranteed, Williams can afford to hire a full-time chauffeur, but he prefers to drive himself. One problem: He's not legal.
"I already know how to drive; I just don't have a license," he said.
It's on his to-do list before training camp.
7. A dash of Pepper: During his playing days with the New York Giants and Jets, Pepper Johnson always was popular among reporters. He was engaging and quick with a quote. Fourteen years as a New England Patriots assistant has turned him into a Stepford Jet.
The new defensive line coach, in his first interview since being hired by Todd Bowles, was downright Belichick-ian. His comments about his current linemen were bland and he declined to re-visit his failed bid to become the Giants' defensive coordinator. At the time of the rejection, he aired his frustration in the papers. Asked about it last week, he sounded like he wanted to pull a Belichick and say, "We're on to training camp."
"I'm trying not to go backwards," he said. "It happened. ... I am ecstatic about working with Todd Bowles. I am telling you, everything he says -- whether he's standing in front of you or with the team -- there's a lot of stuff that are like words out of my mouth ... things I would've liked to have said or had the courage to say. He's a strong man. I'm happy in the situation that I'm in."
I know this about Johnson: He might be holding back his personality, but he knows how to coach.
8. Bowles-speak: There's a new defensive system, and that means new terminology. Here's a small sample. Under Bowles, the four linebacker positions are known as Mike (strong inside), Mo (weak inside), Sam (strong outside) and Will (weak outside). Under Rex Ryan, the corresponding positions were Mike, Will, Sam and Rush. The inside and outside positions are so different they have different coaches and different meeting rooms.
9. Bryce is right: If Bryce Petty doesn't make it in the NFL, it won't be because of his arm strength. The rookie's arm is plenty strong. The toughest transition for him will be adjusting to the multiple looks on defense. At Baylor, he saw a lot of vanilla coverages because of their no-huddle, up-tempo offense. The fast pace forced defenses to keep it simple because there wasn't much pre-snap opportunity to make exotic calls. But now it's a whole new world for Petty and quarterbacks from spread offenses.
10. Hoodie out of control: Belichick is something else. He kept Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler off the practice field for two weeks because he showed up late for a voluntary workout. Not only did he defy the collective bargaining agreement, but Belichick showed his cold-blooded side. Instead of penalizing Butler, he should be embracing him. His game-saving interception rescued Belichick from an endless amount of criticism. His failure to use a timeout with about a minute left was a horrible decision. If it weren't for Butler, he'd be dealing with the negative fallout, not Pete Carroll.