The New York Jets took a hit on the first day of free agency, losing right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders. They landed him with a five-year, $30 million contract, including $15 million in guarantees, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.
The entire Howard negotiation provided a glimpse into general manager John Idzik's approach and his reputation as a tough negotiator. He placed a specific value on Howard, a two-year starter, and refused to budge. In the end, he decided not to match Oakland's $6 million-a-year offer, a steep price for a player of Howard's ilk.
There "wasn't a big difference" between the Jets' offer and Howard's asking price, a source said Tuesday night. "It wouldn't have been a stretch for them, but Idzik drew a line in the sand." Talks broke off Tuesday afternoon and Howard got on a plane to the West Coast, becoming an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. Howard has a comfort level with Raiders offensive line coach Tony Sparano, formerly the Jets' coordinator, and that played a role in his decision.
So what does this mean for the Jets? Well, it means they have to replace the right side of their line -- and that's never a good thing.
Guard Willie Colon is a free agent and not likely to return. A possible replacement for Howard will arrive Wednesday for free-agent visit -- Breno Giacomini, who spent the last three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He started nine games in 2013, missing seven with a knee injury. Giacomini, originally a fifth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2008, has 33 career starts. Idzik, a former Seattle executive, likes him a lot. Giacomini, 28, is a serviceable player, but he doesn't have Howard's upside.
The Jets also made an inquiry about right tackle Zach Strief, whom many believe was the New Orleans Saints' best lineman last season. Evidently, the Jets aren't giving strong consideration to any in-house options. Howard's backup last season was Oday Aboushi, who didn't dress for a single game in what amounted to a redshirt rookie year.
Idzik will get ripped, no doubt, for losing an ascending player like Howard. Let's see how he fills the void before drawing any conclusions.