The other signing the Oakland Raiders made on the first day of free agency was for former New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard. The 5-year, $30 million deal with $15 million guaranteed is a prize for the former undrafted free agent. Like Rodger Saffold, it is a gross overpayment for a average player
Howard has been possibly the most consistent right tackle in New York since Damien Woody, but never seemed worthy of $6 million per year. He graded out 47th of 76 qualifiers in Pro Football Focuses rankings, and struggled many times in pass protection, as you can see here. Elvis Dumervil is able to quickly dip under and make Geno Smith scramble out of the pocket.
Howard has been labeled a power blocker, but he also struggled tremendously in the run game. Here he lets the defensive tackle hold him up and allows the tackle of the runner in the backfield.
For a team like New York, who has no other tackles on their roster to replace Howard, to let him go without a fight, really shows something. Howard is a talented option, and would have been and underrated signing, but for a far lesser price.
The worst part of the signing is how much faith the franchise has in 2013 second round pick Menelik Watson. Watson was drafted to bookend Jared Veldheer as a right tackle, but was limited with injuries his rookie year. Signing Howard and Saffold means Watson is destined to ride the bench. Watson obviously has talent, or else he wouldn’t have been drafted so high.
But now Watson will settle in as a swing tackle, backing up both spots, which is good given Saffold’s injury history. Raiders fans now just have to pray that Howard will never be expected to fill in at left tackle.
With these two tackle signings, and the probable benching of Watson, general manager Reggie McKenzie is starting his supposed offseason of redemption off horribly.