Sheldon Richardson has had quite a tumultuous start to his career with the New York Jets. The immensely talented defensive lineman has thrived at all levels of football. He was a blue-chip prospect who played at the University of Missouri before being drafted thirteenth overall in 2013. At age 25 he is entering the prime of his career and the Jets have taken notice by picking up the fifth year option on his rookie contract as reported by CBS Sports reporter Joel Corry.
The 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year will be receiving about $8.069 million for the 2017 season. The option also still grants the Jets the ability to release Richardson until next season just like the situation with Quinton Coples. The contract becomes guaranteed if Richardson gets injured and will miss the 2017 season. The $8.069 million figure is a beautiful one for the Jets. In terms of average season salary for contracts that would make Sheldon Richardson’s the 27th highest salary for a defensive linemen if he was to make that this year. With respects to the salary cap hit he would rank thirteenth this season. Compared with what Richardson could be offered in free agency this is a bargain. Over three seasons Richardson has totaled 16.5 sacks to go along with 4 forced fumbles.
Picking up this option gives the Jets a Pro Bowl caliber player at more than a reasonable price in addition to giving the Jets another year to see how Richardson behaves off the field. The on the field versatility and production have been great but the off-field issues that date back to his college days still linger. At Missouri Richardson was suspended from the team for an unspecified rules violation helping make his decision to enter the draft that much easier while his off the field antics cost him four games this year for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy. There is potentially a suspension coming with his reckless driving arrest last summer in which he avoided jail time. The Jets bought themselves more time in figuring out if and how Richardson fits into the Jets’ long term plans.
The underlying effect this option leads to is the Jets’ plans with Muhammad Wilkerson. With Sheldon Richardson under contract for the next two seasons and Leonard Williams for up to the next four seasons the possibility of trading Wilkerson becomes more and more likely. Wilkerson, if traded, would most likely be aggressively shopped leading up to and during the draft on April 28 as a chip to move up. If the Jets were not to trade Wilkerson and the Jets aren’t liking what they’re seeing with Richardson the slightest door could be open for a trade of Richardson during the season or at season’s end and the resigning of Wilkerson. The next eight days will clear up this conundrum and give us a clearer picture of Jets’ defensive logjam up front.
To learn more about Sheldon Richardson and what could unfold with Muhammad Wilkerson read more in our New York Jets forum.