The agent for free agent defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson took to Twitter Saturday morning to state that his client's rehab is going well, and barring a setback will be ready for the start of the 2016 season. Wilkerson suffered a broken right leg in Week 17.
The most interesting part of the agent's tweet was his reference to where Wilkerson would be playing in 2016. He used the word "someone" rather than saying the Jets.
Barring any major setbacks with rehab, Mo Wilkerson will indeed be playing for someone at beginning of 2016 NFL season!— Chad Wiestling (@cwiestling) March 19, 2016
The New York Jets placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Wilkerson prior to the start of free agency. There has been no mention of teams negotiating with Wilkerson, but there have been numerous reports that the Jets are open to trading Wilkerson. They have solid depth along the line, and would seem to prefer spending their money elsewhere.
The San Francisco 49ers signed Ian Williams to a new contract, and extended Quinton Dial, all after spending a first round pick on Arik Armstead in the 2015 NFL Draft. In most years that would seem to be enough starters to head into a season. However, there are a couple reasons the 49ers might be interested in Wilkerson, or one of the many options in a fairly deep draft class of defensive linemen. Chip Kelly's offense means the defense will be spending a lot of time on the field, and extra quality bodies are needed. Additionally, Armstead showed some good stuff in 2015, but he is still just a second-year player. I don't think that alone is enough to justify a heavy additional investment in the position, but coupled with Kelly defenses getting extra work would provide a good reason for adding more depth.
Of course, as I said above, this year's draft is expected to be fairly deep in defensive line talent. One suggestion I've seen is trying to work a deal with Colin Kaepernick and a draft pick for the Denver Broncos first round pick (No. 31 overall) and then using that to acquire Wilkerson. I don't expect the 49ers to spend extra on Wilkerson, but it's certainly one option for a team with a lot of draft picks and cap space. The defensive front does need more depth, but I think the team is more likely to look at young, cheaper options.