No one wants to speak it but time is no longer on the side of Xavien Howard and 2023 could prove to be an especially critical year for the star cornerback.
I would like to think that Howard will be around to finish out his contract that runs currently through 2027 but we all know that will not happen.
Howard is 30 years old and will be 31 by the time we get to 2024. Last year we saw a dip in production, not because of anything more than injury but that too should be something to monitor.
Howard could have a big year in Fangio's system and playing opposite Jalen Ramsey could be exactly what Howard needs to see his production climb back to an All-Pro level. Still, we can't simply pass on his current contract and what it could mean for the Dolphins future.
Using the current monetary statistics from OverTheCap.com, Howard is going to only count $10 million against the cap this year but that balloons to almost $26 million in 2024.
But why is the 2024 season the critical one to watch and not the 2025 season?
Howard's contract in 2024 is interesting. While he will count $25.9 miillion in cap space, the Dolphins would only recover $2.8 million if released prior to June 1st. In 2025 that number grows to $7.2 million but here is where it is oddly interesting.
If Miami designated Howard a post-June 1st cut, like Byron Jones this past off-season, the Dolphins would save $18.5 million and eat $7.4 million. In 2025, the Dolphins would need to designate him a P-J1 release as well and the savings on that season is $2 million less than than in 2024.
- Dead money - 2024 - $7.4 million
- Savings - 2024 - $18.5 million
- Dead money - 2025 - $6.1 million
- Savings - 2025 - $16.7 million
If Howard makes it to 2026, the dead money stays the same but the savings increase back to $18 million. In a perfect world, he will make it 2027 and announce his retirement as a member of the Miami Dolphins but we don't live in a perfect world.
Working in Miami's favor is the increase in expected salary cap space but at some point, Miami is going to need to deal with Xavien Howard. He was extended then threatened to hold out after Miami gave Byron Jones more money and got, in turn, more money guaranteed. Now, it is going to be comind due.
Injuries will be something to watch this upcoming season and if Howard avoids them and returns to his Pro Bowl form - even Howard will tell you last year was not a Pro Bowl performance - he will 100% be back in 2024 but there is a chance that 2023 could be a pivotal point in his career and a determining factor in his future with Miami.
Do I think Howard will be released after this season? No. I do not think that is going to happen but I do so a pathway for it being considered should things not go well in 2023. I simply won't discount it.
I will say that I full expect to see a version of Xavien Howard on the field that plays younger and more instinctive. Vic Fangio's system fits Howard's skill set well and with Ramsey on the other side, Howard should shine in Miami in 2023 and that could make his salary in 2024 look like a steal.