The New York Jets have been working on re-signing right tackle Austin Howard and kicker Nick Folk since the beginning of the offseason, with the franchise tag looming as a possibility for both. Howard is the more valuable player, but the franchise tag number for offensive linemen is so high that the Jets chose not use it on him, instead placing it on Folk.
Folk was outstanding for the Jets this season, making 33 of 36 field goal attempts, including three game winners. Folk’s clutch kicking was key in quite a few of the Jets’ wins this season, and retaining Folk was high on John Idzik’s priority list. Folk will make $3.556 million under the franchise tag, which sounds like a lot for a kicker but is actually in line with salaries for other top players at the position.
Folk has publicly stated that he wants a long term deal and feels he deserves one, and he has a strong case. It will be interesting to see if the Jets use the franchise tag to keep Folk on the roster while the two sides continue to negotiate a long term deal. Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers just signed a 4-year, $12.4 million deal last week, and that could be a blueprint for a Folk deal. Folk is not likely to be thrilled about being tagged, as few players are. He wants a long term deal, and the Jets would be smart to give him one.
This deal also really increases the pressure on the Howard negotiations. The Jets have until March 11th to get a deal done or Howard becomes an unrestricted free agent. Howard is likely to get at least one big offer on the open market, and the Jets don’t want to give him a chance to get a big payday from another team. The Jets have enough problems to address this offseason, and they certainly don’t want to add tackle to the list.
The decision to use the franchise tag on Folk is a slight surprise, but it makes sense for the Jets. However, if they don’t get Austin Howard re-signed this could end end up looking like a very poor decision.