The deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise tag is Monday is at 4PM, and the New York Jets are hoping that they can avoid putting it on tackle Austin Howard. The soon to be 27 year old Howard has started at right tackle for the Jets each of the last two seasons, and he has developed into a quality player at the position. Getting a long term contract worked out with him was the Jets’ biggest offseason priority prior to the start of free agency, but so far talks have failed to materialize a deal.
The franchise tag figure for tackles is approximately $11 million, which is far more than the Jets want to pay for a right tackle. The Jets are looking to pay Howard in the range of $4-5 million per season, which is in line with what other quality starters at the position make. The Jets will certainly have more than enough cap space to franchise Howard if it came to that, but giving Howard such a large salary would cut into their options at other positions.
The Jets could use the franchise tag as a temporary fix if the two sides are close to deal, ensuring that Howard doesn’t hit the free agent market while a contract is finalized. However, there has been very little news regarding the progress the two sides are making, so it remains to be seen whether that’s a possibility. The Jets can’t afford to lose Howard, but it is certainly understandable that they would balk at using the franchise tag on him.
The Jets have also considered using the tag on kicker Nick Folk, who the team wants to sign to a long term deal as well. The franchise tag is projected to be a little over $3 million for kickers, a much more reasonable number. However, Folk obviously has to be lower priority than Howard because of positional value, which only adds to the pressure on John Idzik to get a deal done quickly.
This is the big story for Jets fans to watch over the weekend, and the outcome will have a significant impact on what the Jets’ next steps are this offseason.