Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comThe Jets are not a team that regularly uses the franchise tag and this year should be no different.
Dating back to the 2005 season, the Jets have only used the franchise tag designation three times during that span. In 2005 and 2006 the Jets franchised John Abraham twice before eventually trading him to the Falcons. That pick brought Nick Mangold to New York during the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. In 20011, the Jets franchised inside linebacker David Harris while uncertainty loomed over the Jets. The Jets and Harris fully intended on coming to terms on a new deal, but Harris was the last of the “Core Four” players who didn’t get an extension the previous summer. With so much uncertainty around the expiration of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Jets decided that caution was the best course in such uncertainty and so they franchised Harris.
While there is almost no chance the Jets would use the tag, here are the only two players who deserve a cursory consideration while we wait for free agency:
Why he should: Folk Hero was fifth in field goals made and only missed three kicks all season, while hitting three game clinchers in wins over the Bucs, Falcons and overtime against the Patriots. The Jets expect to be an offense that commits far fewer turnovers (29 – eighth worst in 2013) in 2014 and that will mean an even greater reliance on the kicking game as more of those drives stall across midfield but maybe not in the red zone. Teams rarely give large contracts to kickers who haven’t already shown a track record to their current organization and the Jets need to consider what sort of a deal they might give to keep Folk in New York.
Why he won’t: The 2013 franchise tag was set at $2.97 million for kickers. That will likely go up a bit in 2014 thanks to deals handed out to Robbie Gould and Dan Bailey in recent days but Folk won’t likely have enough competition on the open market to warrant a contract rising to over $3 million APY. By not franchising Folk, they could likely re-sign him to a lower deal than the tag would lock in … that is, unless, Washington comes a callin’.
Why he should: Right now Austin Howard is probably the player that most fans are most concerned about won’t be be back in 2013. While Howard might not be a flashy player, he is solid. He jumped into the starting spot late in camp in 2012 and has faced some stout competition as teams have sought to isolate him with D’Brickashaw Ferguson playing on the other side of the line. There are plenty of NFL teams that would jump at the chance to sign a starting right tackle that they could plug into their system and not worry about and Howard is one of those players on the right side at this point in his career. A team with better overall quarterback play could be getting a bargain for Howard, who has graded out commendably in his first two years as a starter but who has had to protect the husk of Mark Sanchez in 2012 and a wide-eyed rookie in 2013.
Why he won’t: Howard was rated by Pro Football Focus as the 16th best right tackle this year and last year as well and while there’s some upside, it’s certainly no where near enough to command a tag. When it comes to offensive line, no distinction is made for center, guard or tackle. Last year, the franchise figure for offensive line was set at $9.2 million. Howard is a solid player and he could be an asset as a starter for the next 3-5 years as a right tackle or even as a guard further down the road, but his play doesn’t jive with what the top left tackles in the league are doing and making. Jason Fitzgerald told us last year that he thought Howard would cost a maximum of $5 million per year for the Jets. Based on Howard’s grades at right tackle, OverTheCap.com would slot him between $2 million to $4 million annually depending on how long the deal is and the guarantees. As a sample, Giants RT Justin Pugh’s 2013 deal might wind up being a similarly structured deal. By franchising a player like Howard the Jets are carving off more salary cap than they would ever need to even if they got into a competitive bid situation with another team.