The Jets have opened contract negotiations with free-agent-to-be Austin Howard, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. According to Mehta, the Jets hope to lock up Howard to a multiyear contract before free agency begins on March 11.
Earlier today, Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com suggested that the Jets would likely make a “strong push” to re-sign Howard, and it seems that push is already underway. The 26-year-old started all 16 games at right tackle for New York for a second consecutive season, allowing just two quarterback sacks and ranking as one of the best tackles in the league when it came to avoiding penalties, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Within his piece, Cimini suggested that Howard could be in line for a deal similar to the one signed by Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer a year ago. Vollmer agreed to a four-year contract with the Pats worth about $17MM, though it could increase to an overall value of up to $27MM due to various incentives.
OverTheCap.com’s list of top contracts for right tackles suggest that’s probably about the right neighborhood for Howard’s next deal — signing for a contract equal to Vollmer’s would make him one of the top 10 highest-paid right tackles in the league. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Howard exceed that amount and approach the top five salaries at the position.