The Miami Dolphins defensive scheme doesn't typically put their best CBs on the opposing team's best WRs and teams are taking advantage of that.
Xavien Howard was supposed to take a big step toward a return to elite status with the addition of Jalen Ramsey. So far, he has been average. Not bad, just average, and honestly, that might not be good enough for him to stick around beyond this season.
Howard's future in Miami shouldn't be a question on any level but unfortunately, he isn't playing up to a massive contract that will see him counting $25.9 million in cap space next season. If the Dolphins want to move on they would save $18.5 million if they designate him a post-June 1st release. They save just over $2 million if they release him outright.
The Dolphins have to make a decision Howard but it could be as simple as not making a decision. If the Dolphins see his value to the team they don't have to do anything. It's only speculation on our part that his future could be up in the air.
The reasons are simple, his production has been trending downward for a few years now and last year's Pro Bowl honor wasn't due to his play on the field and he would agree with that because he said as much last year.
Howard has one interception this season and that came way back in week two against the Patriots. Working well in his favor is the fact that he posted at least one pass defensed in 10 of 12 games this season.
One of the issues is that opposing teams are no longer worried about throwing in his direction and he is getting a lot of work with Ramsey on the opposite side. He isn't as quick off the snap and his cuts are not as they used to be. He hasn't been able to set the boundary consistently this year and staying with WRs has been a problem at times.
Still, it's Xavien Howard, and players typically just don't suddenly become bad. In his case, he isn't bad he just isn't making the elite plays we have seen over the last six seasons that have included four Pro Bowls and a First-Team All-Pro.
Will this be the last year for Howard in Miami? Depends on what the Dolphins want to do at the position. Cam Smith was drafted as a potential replacement but he has yet to play as a CB. The Dolphins could turn to the draft next year and spend the savings on other players.
Miami has a lot of decisions to make after the season. Christian Wilkins, Robert Hunt, and Andrew Van Ginkel are three of the top FAs heading into the off-season and none of them will be cheap. The Dolphins need to keep as many of these players together as they can and when that becomes an issue, you start to look at players that don't factor into the longer view of a team's future.
Is Howard viewed in that longer picture for the Miami Dolphins or is he simply playing out his contract? That's a decision we could see made by Chris Grier this off-season and if no decision is made, well that's a decision too.
Personally, I would love to see Howard stick around another year but Miami needs to find his future replacement.