Austin Howard was pressed into the starting lineup in 2012 mainly because the Jets had nowhere else to turn when Wayne Hunter had a rough preseason. Howard completed his second year as a starter in 2013 and is now set to become an unrestricted free agent. What will happen with the former undrafted free agent from Northern Iowa?
Over the last two years, Howard has developed into a credible starter. His lack of athleticism leads to some rough stretches in pass protection and will probably prevent him from ever becoming a top end starter. According to Pro Football Focus, 38 disruptions were attributable to Howard. That puts him 28th out of 58 out of tackles who played half their team's snaps. Howard is very big at 6'7" and 333 pounds. While I think he took a step back as a run blocker in 2013, he does have the potential to be a force in the run game.
Is Howard an elite tackle? No. Will he ever be? Probably not, but the entire team cannot be superstars. You need to supplement them with adequate players. Howard has shown he can have a degree of success with this team. The Jets could probably replace him, but Austin is the one free agent I would like to see the Jets make an effort to keep provided the deal is reasonable ($4 million annual average or less). If he's your best lineman, your team is in big trouble. If he's your fifth best, you aren't in bad shape at all.