(Image Credit: Douglas DeFelice/USA Today)
Written By: James Brizuela
This last week has been a roller coaster of emotions between the Miami Dolphins and Xavien Howard’s contract dispute. Initially, Howard publicly asked for a trade last Tuesday, from the Dolphins, on his Instagram page:
To the surprise of many fans and analysts alike, Howard acted like a professional, arriving at the Miami Dolphins brand new training facility on Tuesday, when the team was set to begin their mandatory training camp. Showcasing his involvement could mean that he prefers the “hold-in” style of negotiating, rather than being fined a staggering $50,000 a day for skipping any training days, under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.
The first week of practice went off without a hitch, but many expected to see the trading of Howard happen sooner rather than later, especially when he took his exit from practice early Thursday. Howard’s exit left many to assume that a trade was imminent, only to find out that he was dealing with a “minor injury.” When Howard finally spoke to reporters about his contract on Saturday, he had a few simple words to relay to the higher-ups, “it’s up to them.” Leaving fans salivating at the idea that Howard would like to remain with the Dolphins, despite his post stating that he felt undervalued and disrespected.
Xavien Howard signed a five-year, $75.25 million dollar extension back in 2019, making him the highest-paid cornerback at that time. He is now the 6th highest paid corner in the league and 2nd highest paid corner on the Miami Dolphins, after they brought in Byron Jones, offering him a much higher $82.5 million dollar contract. So it stands to reason that Howard would be upset, especially after logging a league-leading 10 interceptions last season, which is no small feat.
So what happens next?
The Dolphins have a few options:
The Dolphins can outright trade Howard to a cornerback needy team, but how high is his value? Although he is arguably one of the top 5 cornerbacks in the league currently, Howard’s career has been mired by injury. A nagging knee injury has sidelined Howard more than a few times, allotting his career to somewhat feel slogged down with how much output he delivers. The Dolphins led the league in takeaways last season, with 28, and 10 of those belonged to Howard alone. Some teams may try to use Howard’s injury past to lowball an offer that would suit them and not in favor of the Dolphins. On the flip side, Miami’s price might be too steep for any team to truly go for the secondary standout, being that he is coming off the best year of his career.
2. Let Howard Sit
The Dolphins could do themselves a big disservice by allowing Howard to simply sit, being stubborn in their aim to not allow his requested trade to go through. But would denying Howard a trade hurt the Dolphins more than helping them get their way in his contract restructuring? Absolutely. Howard faking an injury or the upper brass allowing him to ride the bench would devalue the standout. They would not be able to get as much value via trade as the Dolphins could do right now if that’s the route the team decides to take.
3. Pay Him
The easiest fix to this entire mess is to agree to add some more guaranteed money to Howard’s contract so that he is being paid higher than Byron Jones, without the money going against the cap situation for the Dolphins. As it stands right now, Howard and his agent David Canter requested that the Dolphins move $4 million from 2024 to this current year. A minor move that doesn't seem like it would ruffle too many feathers in the front office. The Dolphins have recently added more money to their cap by restructuring Bernardrick McKinney’s contract, cutting $4 million dollars from his current contract, and eliminating the final two years of his deal, so it stands to reason that there could be some wiggle room to restructuring Howard’s contract.
A week of practice has gone by, and Howard hasn’t seen the field much due to reaggravating an ankle injury. When questioned by reporters about the contract situation on Monday, Coach Flores shed some light on the ordeal, “I do think we’re moving in the right direction.” The Dolphins are coming off a 10-6 season, barely missing the playoffs by one game. With the 5th easiest schedule, and a host of new and talented players joining the roster, the Dolphins would do well to find a way to keep Howard happy and sticking to his ball hawk tendencies, so they can find their way to the postseason.