Cole reports that the team was planning to lock up Richardson prior to his recent suspension. On top of that, there are concerns about Richardson’s long-term contract demands and the possibility that he could hold out for a long-term deal in the neighborhood of Ndamukong Suh‘s new contract with the Dolphins.
The Jets reportedly view Richardson as a better long-term player than Wilkerson, but Cole mentions that they may be able to get a more reasonable agreement in place with Wilkerson and replace Richardson with first-round pick Leonard Williams.
The NFL announced that Richardson had been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy last week.
Wilkerson, 25, is already among the best defensive linemen in the NFL and has clearly earned for a big raise. The Jets will still have their franchise tag at their disposal in 2016 in case negotiations don’t go anywhere over the next year.
In 2014, Wilkerson appeared in 13 games and recorded 56 tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble and and five pass defenses. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 3 defensive end in a 3-4 system.
Richardson, 24, is entering the third year of his four-year, $10.054 million rookie contract and was set to make a base salary of $1.319 million for the 2015 season.
Last year, Richardson recorded 66 tackles, eight sacks, a forced fumble, a recovery and a safety for the Jets’ defense. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 2 defensive end in a 3-4 defense out of qualifying players.