By Kristian Dyer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – John Idzik just nailed another one, much like his kicker did repeatedly this season.
The New York Jets put the franchise tag on kicker Nick Folk on Friday afternoon, a move that will ensure the player known as “Folk Hero” for his clutch kicks this season will be paid among the top five kickers in the league. It would be easy to look past the contributions of Folk this year, after all he is “just a kicker.” But 2013 showed that when healthy, he can be elite.
And now the Jets are showing him the money. But they need to show him more. Folk must be a part of the Jets plans not just near-term but for the future.
He had three game-winning field goals this year, a major reason why the Jets started strong and were able to overachieve with an 8-8 record. What Folk has done is shake off the image of being inconsistent and erratic, a death knell to kickers. Now, he is reliable. Now he is clutch.
As a franchise, the Jets haven’t had much consistency in the kicking game over the years, but now with Folk they certainly have one of the best in the league. He has two of the top four kicking seasons in franchise history and last year his field goal percentage made of 91.7 percent is best in franchise history for any kicker with a significant number of attempts. That he is finally healthy is a good thing for the Jets.
Hip surgery in 2009 set his career back a couple seasons, years where he should have been entering his prime. And up until this offseason, the Jets always treated him as a screw-up waiting to happen, almost waiting and hoping for him to blunder. He sustained a long list of challenges over the years from other kickers such as Nick Novak and Billy Cundiff, veterans who were supposed to supplant him and make him expendable. But always he managed to stave them off in training camp but his job never really seemed secure.
This past year, he made 33 of 36 field goal attempts, a percentage higher than 2007 when he made the Pro Bowl. He also has made six of seven attempts over the past two seasons of greater than 50 yards, certainly a positive given the difficulty of this Jets offense in moving the ball over the past few years. And this year after changing up his daily routine in an effort to spare his leg during the course of a long, grinding NFL season, he had 30 touchbacks on kickoffs, easily a career best.
And yet somehow, despite kicking outdoors and in the always unpredictable Meadowlands wind, Folk was still a Pro Bowl snub this year.
They aren’t exciting numbers, they aren’t flashy plays, but over the past season Folk has proven to be as important to this team as the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson or David Harris. He has become automatic and now he is getting paid as such.
It isn’t enough, however, although it is a good start. The franchise tag ensures some stability for at least one season for a player who has only ever been on single-season contracts since he came to New York in 2010. But Folk deserves more based off his merits – he deserves a multi-year deal with the Jets.
He has earned this pay raise but the Jets also must keep one of the most consistent parts of their team as just that – on their team. On Friday the Jets decided to pay the man. Now, they must decide to lock him up for the future.
Folk kicked the Jets to respectability this past year. Now, he should be a Jet for life.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed@KristianRDyer.
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