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Jets’ selection of Williams could impact Wilkerson

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan proved he wasn’t bluffing Thursday night, when he lived up to his pre-draft declaration that he’d take the best player available by selecting USC defensive end Leonard Williams with the sixth pick in the first round.

In the process, Maccagnan raised the stakes in his poker game with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.

The Jets now have three starting-caliber defensive ends in the fold with Williams, Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Something has to give, and it won’t be the defensive alignment — new head coach Todd Bowles has said the Jets will stick with the 3-4 utilized by former head coach Rex Ryan — or will it be Richardson, the third-year star who is locked up through 2016.

That leaves Wilkerson, who is sitting out voluntary workouts this spring as he tries to negotiate a new deal with the Jets. Wilkerson is due just shy of $7 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract and is reportedly seeking at least $30 million guaranteed in his next contract.

“Right now, Muhammad’s on our team and I’m not going to speculate,” Maccagnan said. “We’re not actively trying to shop Muhammad.”

Not exactly the most convincing of denials from Maccagnan, who has proved unafraid of bold moves in his first three-plus months as general manager.

Indeed, trading Wilkerson would allow Maccagnan to regain the draft picks (and then some) that he sent to the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans in the deals that brought mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Jets.

Selecting Williams ranks as another decisive strike by Maccagnan. Williams was viewed as a likely top-five pick not only because of his resume — he collected 21 sacks in three seasons at USC — but his youth. He doesn’t turn 21 until June 20.

But two curveballs tossed in the top five dropped Williams into the Jets’ laps. The Tennessee Titans, picking second, took Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Washington Redskins, picking fifth, selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff from Iowa.

“He was the best player on our board and we’re kind of surprised he actually fell to us,” Maccagnan said. “It was too good of a value to pass on at that point in time.”


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