In what seems like an annual discussion, is it time for the Miami Dolphins to re-sign All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard? In May 2019, the Dolphins and Howard agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million contract, keeping him with the team through 2024. Yet the discussion is already beginning.
Howard’s contract, according to OverTheCap.com, included $27.18 million in fully guaranteed money ($7 million in signing bonus, 2019 and 2020 base salaries at $1.3 million and $11.9 million each, and $7 million in a 2019 roster bonus). When Howard was on the roster for the fifth day of the 2020 league year, his $12.1 million salary for 2021 became fully guaranteed.
He will account for $13.5 million against the cap in 2021, $14.375 million in 2022, $13.4 million in 2023, and $12.25 million in 2024.
With Howard under contract for four more seasons, why would the Dolphins consider a new contract for their top cornerback already?
Because he is not just the team’s top cornerback - he is the league’s. Yet, even after signing the largest contract for a cornerback when he signed it in 2019, Howard is already sixth in cornerback average per year - and he is not the highest-paid cornerback on the Dolphins. In the 2020 free agency period, Miami signed Byron Jones to be the highest-paid cornerback in the league, moving his $16.5 million per year ahead of Howard’s $15.1 million. Jones is now fifth, with Howard sixth. Jalen Ramsey’s contract with the Los Angeles Rams is worth $20 million a year to set the new high point, with the Baltimore Ravens’ Marlon Humphrey ($19.5 million per year), the Buffalo Bills’ Tre’Davious White ($17.25 million per year), and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Darius Slay ($16.7 million per year) completing the second through fourth rankings.
After earning his first First-Team All-Pro selection, second Pro Bowl selection, and leading the league with 10 interceptions, the first time since 2007 that mark had been reached in the NFL and only the second time in Dolphins franchise history it had been done (Dick Westmore in 1967), Howard is believed to want a new deal. He wants to be paid as if he is the elite cornerback in the league, and he wants to have the guaranteed money the team was willing to show Jones ($54.4 million guaranteed, $46 million fully guaranteed).
Is it the right time, however?
It is hard to say yes when the player still has four years on his contract. This is an odd situation, however, as the Dolphins were willing to almost immediately pay another cornerback more money, Howard is doing things not normally done in the NFL, and there has been such a jump in cornerback money over the past couple of years. Howard is worth the money, he is only 28 and is in his prime with years of high-level performance still to go, and he has an argument to be up there with Ramsey in terms of average pay.
Howard is thought to be willing to ask for a trade should the Dolphins not come to the negotiating table. The Dolphins are believed to have no interest in trading one of the cornerstones for their defense and the franchise’s rebuild. Would Howard make it ugly for Miami if there is no new contract coming this offseason?
The Dolphins may not want to set the precedent of granting a player a new contract so quickly after signing him to an extension. They could also risk not signing Howard now, and having him continue to play like he did this past year while the market-value for cornerbacks continues to increase, and make him even more expensive in another year or two. It is a tough situation, but one that Miami could actually use to their advantage.
If they are willing to re-sign Howard this offseason, giving him the guaranteed money he wants, while restructuring the contract to lower his salary cap number this year - in an offseason when the salary cap is expected to shrink after a season of limited crowds at games - could be a win-win for both sides. If the Dolphins can shape the narrative into one of Howard being a team player in a renegotiation, it really could be something that happens this offseason.
A young team, looking to build around a talented core of players, Howard is someone you do not want to see walk out the door. Maybe it is too early to come back to the table for Howard. Or maybe it is the perfect time.
Should the Dolphins look to re-sign Xavien Howard this offseason?
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