Starting Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins will start their last mandatory off-season workout and all eyes will be on Xavien Howard unless he isn’t there.
Brian Flores told the media last week that he expects all of his roster to be on the field for the start of the mandatory sessions this week but just because he expects it, doesn’t mean that it will happen. Xavien Howard has not attended any of the voluntary workouts and while Emmanuel Ogbah has not either, Howard is the one that fans and media are focusing on.
It has been reported and speculated on since the end of last season, Howard wants a new contract. After signing an extension in 2019 that made him the highest-paid corner in the NFL, it has been reported that he wants more. The Dolphins made Byron Jones the highest-paid corner last off-season.
Jones was obviously outplayed by Howard who had a defensive MVP caliber season with double-digit interceptions but now he and the Dolphins could be hitting a crossroad.
How much does Howard want that new deal and is he willing to stay away from the mandatory camp to show he wants more? That is a possibility. Of course, he could attend the camps and then hold out of the training camp that begins at the end of July should he not have a new deal.
The Dolphins extended Jerome Baker over the weekend and some are speculating that Mike Gesicki is the next in line. We believe that as well and discussed it earlier. Howard on the other hand is an entirely different situation.
Clearly, he is one of the best in the league but he has had injury issues and the Dolphins faithfully gave him a huge contract in 2019 coming off an injury-plagued season. Howard only played in 12 games in 2018 but still made the Pro Bowl. In 2019 after signing his contract, he played in only 5 games and landed on IR.
2020 was clearly his best as a professional by far but was it a fluke or is that what should be expected every year? His current contract runs through the 2024 season and he will earn base salaries of $12, $12, $11, and $11 million over the next four seasons.
While everyone waits to see if Howard will practice this week, what happens if he doesn’t? Aside from the fine, he will be hit with, the Dolphins will have to make a decision on his future. Do they push back and make him sit out thus forcing him to decide to play or not to play? Do they give in to his demands and restructure his contract or do they trade him?
There has been plenty of talk since the season ended that Miami could look to move him for future draft capital and some speculate he could be moved in a player for player type trade should one proliferate.
For now, it is a wait and see but the wait is only until tomorrow. If Howard shows up, it is a good sign but if he doesn’t, there will be some questions and the speculation on his future will continue to grow.
Another question we should ask is do the Dolphins want him long-term? Howard is under contract with Miami for three more years but the Dolphins cap-hits for releasing or trading him drop significantly after the 2021 season. Miami would eat $16.2 million this year if they move on from him but after this year, should he not perform at a high level or get injured again, that number drops to $2.8 million and $1.4 million after that.
It is in Miami’s best interest to force Howard to play under his contract this year and then either restructure or trade him next off-season. At least financially speaking.