New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard has been a revelation ever since the team took a flier on him last season, and he has definitely been a massive upgrade over Wayne Hunter over the past two seasons. Howard always had upside due to his athleticism and frame, but I don’t think anyone could have ever envisioned the raw, small-school product and former Philadelphia Eagles swing tackle having immediate success as a starting tackle. But that’s exactly what he did last season, and he impressed the Jets so much that they wisely gave him a high-round tender in restricted free agency last season, thus prioritizing him despite cap issues.
Howard only got better this past season, and he has asserted himself as one of the better right tackles in the NFL. The best part of it all is that he’s just going on 27 before the season starts, so he’s right in the prime of his career. He’s equally good at protecting the passer and paving the way for feature back Chris Ivory, so there’s no doubt that he’s a key piece for the Jets. He and D’Brickashaw Ferguson form one of the league’s most stout bookends, and Howard actually outperformed the more touted Ferguson last season, which is a big testament to Howard’s skill.
Per sources close to the New York Daily News’s Manish Mehta, the Jets and Austin Howard have started contract talks in an effort to sign their dependable right tackle to a multi-year deal, and it’s definitely important to have him around to continue to open up holes for the talented Ivory and keep Geno Smith clean in the pocket. It will be interesting to see what kind of deal he’s able to get from the Jets, but there’s no doubt that they don’t want a tackle as talented as him hitting the open market.
ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini speculated that Howard will get something around four years and $17 million, writing that the Jets will make a “strong push” to re-sign him. That push has reportedly come already, and there’s no doubt that he is an integral part of their running game and rarely makes mistakes in pass pro.