Muhammad Wilkerson trade unlikely; good for Jets, bad for him

Barring the unexpected, Muhammad Wilkerson still will be a member of the New York Jets when the NFL draft concludes Saturday afternoon.

It's draft-day eve, and Wilkerson has no serious suitors, a league source said Wednesday. The Jets have fielded a few calls, the NFL Network reported, but no trade is imminent. It'll be difficult to make a deal on the clock because of the complexities of dealing a player with the franchise tag, so it looks like Wilkerson will be sticking around.

The idea is to keep good players in the building, and Wilkerson is one of the best players on the team. If no trade happens, it shouldn't be seen as a failure for the Jets. What could be bad about retaining a 26-year-old defensive end coming off a Pro Bowl season?

Lost amid the rampant speculation is this simple dynamic: It takes two teams to make a trade. Yes, the Jets are open to trading Wilkerson, but they can't will it to happen. Executing a tag-and-trade is a challenge, and they've known that from the outset. While they're intrigued by the prospect of parlaying their best bargaining chip into a high draft pick, they know it's not realistic.

Not only do the Jets have to find a team willing to compensate them, but it has to be a team with deep pockets, one with enough cap room to meet Wilkerson's asking price on a long-term contract -- figure at least $50 million in guarantees. There's also his health. Even though his rehab from a broken leg is progressing nicely, based on his strategically planned updates on social media, Wilkerson would have to pass a physical before a trade is finalized.

Whether it's a conscious decision or not -- probably not -- keeping Wilkerson is the right play. Unless they score a first-round pick that allows them to draft a franchise-caliber quarterback -- no longer a possibility this year -- it's better to have him than not. Trading him for, say, a second-round pick makes little sense, considering it's only slightly better than the third-round compensatory pick they could receive down the road. That would be a fire sale.

Obviously, Wilkerson can't be thrilled, and his frustration is understandable. He wants -- and deserves -- a new contract, but it looks like he'll play for the $15.7 million franchise tender. The two sides have until mid-July to negotiate a long-term deal, but it appears unlikely.

If Wilkerson isn't traded, the question becomes: Will he make a stink and become a distraction? Once again, he's skipping the offseason program, but that's small potatoes. The louder statement would be boycotting mandatory events such as the June minicamp and training camp.

Even though he apparently is sticking around, this story is far from over.