- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- The New York Jets recently exercised the fifth-year option for Muhammad Wilkerson's contract (2015) -- a no-brainer. The real question is whether the Jets will sign their best defensive player to a long-term extension before the start of the regular season.
Wilkerson said Tuesday night he'd like a new contract, but he wouldn't attach a timetable to his wish.
"I would like a deal, but when it happens, it happens," he said at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, where he and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz were honored by the United Way at its annual Gridiron Gala. "I'm not saying I want it to be before the regular season. When it happens, it happens. I'm going to come in and work hard and take every day like I always do."
Wilkerson is due to make only $1.2 million for the coming season. The fifth-year option would pay him $6.97 million in 2015. That sounds like a lot, but it's not close to what he could make on the open market. The two sides have held preliminary talks, but the Jets hold the leverage and feel no sense of urgency. Wilkerson said he hasn't talked to his agent recently about his contract.
"I'm glad to be a Jet," he said. "I'm glad they picked up the option. I'm ready to go to work."
Wilkerson, peppered with contract-related questions for a few months, hasn't made any threatening comments. He has said on multiple occasions that he has no intention of holding out.
He also shrugged off recent comments by former Jets great Joe Klecko, who questioned Wilkerson's motor in a radio interview. Klecko, a guest on WFAN, said "there are a few too many plays he gives up on a little bit."
"That's motivation for me," Wilkerson said. "Other than that, I couldn't care less. ... He's entitled to his own opinion. I feel I bust my tail every day. I work hard."
Klecko saved his harshest criticism for Wilkerson's teammate, Quinton Coples, whom he said "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" at times. Wilkerson said the remarks will "add fuel to [Coples'] fire," but Coples wouldn't go that far.
"I won't use it as ammunition, but at the end of the day, I know this is a big year for me, stepping up and being a leader on this team and being more productive than I have been the last two years," Coples said.