The Miami Dolphins will either need to extend Xavien Howard or trade him

The Miami Dolphins have the best cornerback in the NFL in Xavien Howard but what is his future?

It won’t be surprising if the Miami Dolphins have to make an internal decision on Xavien Howard this off-season and it could change the roster.

The Miami Dolphins signed Xavien Howard to a five-year, $75.25 million contract ahead of the 2019 season. There is a lot of speculation in the media that Howard may want to redo that contract already. He was given $46 million guaranteed. We are going to operate this article off the assumption that Howard will indeed try to get a different deal this off-season. So this is based on a hypothetical as it relates to that possibility.

The Dolphins may have two choices to make this off-season, well three. They could rework his contract and thus reduce some of the cap hit and give him more guaranteed money, they could trade him, or they could simply make him play on the deal he signed in 2019.

Looking at Howard’s current contract and situation, we can see that the Dolphins do have some wiggle room with whatever decision they make.

  • 2021: $13.5 million – $4.1 million dead money – $9.3 million cap savings
  • 2022: $14.3 million – $2.8 million dead money – $11.5 million savings
  • 2023: $13.4 million – $1.4 million dead money – $12 million savings
  • 2024: $12.2 million – $0.00 dead money – $12.2 million savings

The start of the 2021 season allows the Dolphins to move on from Howard financially with little dead money on the cap. Howard is having a career year statistically. Aside from injuries in the last few years, Howard has been pretty consistent in his play. The Dolphins need to decide if keeping him beyond this year is the right decision for the team.

Xavien Howard

Dec 13, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) celebrates after intercepting a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There was an unconfirmed report earlier this season that Howard’s camp had some issues with what Miami had been offering but a deal still got done and if Howard has any regrets he sure doesn’t show it. For all the speculation, it appears that Howard is having a good time with the Dolphins.

This brings us to his contract. Will he act on a career year to try and leverage more money despite the fact that he has four years left on his deal? In theory, it could be good for the Dolphins, and Howard and Miami may be the ones to approach him.

Miami’s angle would be a simple conversion of money to a signing bonus which would lower their cap hit and guarantee more of the contract for Howard. In this case, Howard wouldn’t get more money, just more guaranteed money on the current contract. It would be a smart move by the Dolphins to approach that option with Howard’s camp.

The next scenario is making Howard play on this deal. Yes, Howard is under contract and as such has little leverage to force the Dolphins to pay more, and even if he held out, the Dolphins could fine him and that would cut into Howard’s guarantees. It wouldn’t be smart for Howard to take this approach but scenario one would eliminate the need and both sides would or at least should be happy.

Finally, the Dolphins could trade Howard and this is where we start looking at trade value vs. production. Corners are a big need around the NFL and teams typically will overpay for even a marginal corner. Miami made Byron Jones the top paid corner in the league but does anyone believe he has played at that level of worth this year? Probably not. Now throw in how that would feel if Miami had traded for him?

Last year the Jaguars traded disgruntled CB Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. The trade moved two first-round draft picks to the Jaguars and gave the Rams a stud corner. With the season that Howard is having, what would he draw in terms of trade?

This is the scenario that bears watching. The reason is we don’t know how other teams covet Howard or if they do at all. Howard is a top cornerback but will he draw enough interest to sway Chris Grier? It took a huge trade with the Texans to move on from Laremy Tunsil after all.

Earlier this year the Patriots floated Stephon Gilmore at the trade deadline. They wanted a first-round pick and a player. Gilmore has a better track record than Howard but it isn’t a huge one. If Howard wins Defensive Player of the Year after this season, his value will go higher but if anyone believes he is a lock for two first-round picks, they may want to think again.

This off-season Howard’s value will likely be at its zenith. Moving Howard would make sense if the trade value is there but the Dolphins can’t simply trade him because then they would need to replace him as well. This will be an interesting off-season and if it were me making the decision, it would be pretty simple. I would move some of his contract to guaranteed money and reduce my cap hit but I would not rule out trading him if the compensation blows me away.