Austin Howard hits the open market

The New York Jets identified right tackle Austin Howard as their No. 1 free-agent priority, but they failed to strike a deal by 4 p.m. ET -- and that means he could be a goner.

Howard, regarded as an ascending player, became an unrestricted free agent. He will draw considerable interest on the open market, meaning there's a good chance he will sign elsewhere. That would be a blow to the Jets, who don't have a logical in-house replacement. Howard's backup last season was Oday Aboushi, a fifth-round pick who didn't dress for a single game.

The draft is deep at tackle, so the Jets probably could pick one with the 18th overall choice. But, with so many other needs, it would be counter-productive to address a position that could've been solved by locking up Howard on a long-term deal.