Don’t expect the Miami Dolphins to move on from Xavien Howard

The Miami Dolphins had one of the worst coverage defenses in the league this season. Pro Football Focus ranked Miami 31st in pass coverage, with only one defensive back, Verone McKinley III, earning a PFF grade above 70.

Much of the blame falls on long-time Miami cornerback Xavien Howard. Fans were quick to point out Howard’s lack of production and many are hopeful the front office can find a way to replace him. That’s wishful thinking, but fans should come to grips with the fact that, barring an injury, Howard will be a starting corner for the Dolphins next season.

Howard has been a mainstay with the Dolphins since he was a second-round pick in 2016. He’s a two-time All-Pro selection, a four-time Pro Bowler, and led the league in interceptions in 2018 and 2020. After being one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL for much of his career, it seems like the wheels are starting to come off a little.

Howard took a major step back in 2022, with PFF giving him a coverage grade of 56, making him 13th on the team and sixth among defensive backs. During the wildcard matchup against the Bills Sunday, Howard was targeted seven times and allowed four catches for 87 yards, including a 52-yard pass from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs while breaking up a pass and hauling in an interception.

While there are legitimate reasons to want to move on from Howard, a move is highly unlikely. What team would trade for an expensive, aging cornerback whose play is on the decline? Releasing him isn’t an option, either. Howard just finished the first year of a five-year, $90 million contract. The dead cap hit would be over $33 million if he was released. With the Dolphins being projected to have one of the worst salary cap situations this offseason, cutting Howard is a non-starter.

Whether the Dolphins like it or not, Howard is here to stay, at least next year. If the Dolphins move on from him after next season, the dead cap hit would go down to just over $23 million.