“Hold Out? Hold On…”

With the 2021 NFL season fast approaching, there are still some clouds looming over the Miami Dolphins. I wouldn’t necessarily say clouds in the sense of doom or fear, but the Dolphins have questions that they need to find answers to. The biggest question of the offseason so far has been: what do we do with Xavien Howard?

Xavien Howard was an All-Pro cornerback for the 2020 season, who led the NFL in interceptions and was a vital piece in the success of Miami’s defense last year. We can be honest as Dolphins fans that the defense was the key to our 10-6 record last year and was the reason we won those 10 games. Until Week 17, Miami’s defense was energetic, fiery, obnoxious, and fun to watch, with a big part of that being because of Howard’s glue-like hands in the secondary. 

But with the team preparing for another season and training camp right around the corner, Xavien Howard is formally holding out in participating in any team activities, in the hopes of restructuring his contract with the Dolphins. At the end of the 2019 season, Howard signed a 5-year, $75,250,000 contract with the Miami Dolphins, which included a $7,000,000 signing bonus, and $39,260,641 guaranteed. After an incredible 2020 season that included 10 interceptions, 51 tackles and 16 games played, Howard wants to restructure his contract so that it reflects his production on the field. For the Miami Dolphins, this is a delicate situation, but one that shouldn’t scare the franchise into making any financial mistakes.

Was Xavien Howard one of the best corners in the league last year? Yes. Will he continue to produce at that level for the rest of his contract’s length? I highly doubt it. Howard is currently 28 years old and with his current contract expiring in 2024, he will be 31 years old. It is a safe bet that he will see a drop in production from his peak season last year and to spend astronomical amounts of money on a position that already has a lot of financial allocation to it is absurd to me. I understand why Xavien Howard wants to restructure his contract; I’d want more financial stability too if I just came off an All-Pro season where I led the league in a competitive statistical category. But I don’t think the Dolphins should compensate for this achievement, especially after the ultimate goal was not achieved and the cornerback position has depth already.

The Dolphins still have Byron Jones locked under contract (5 years, $82,500,000), drafted Noah Igbinoghene in the 1st round of the 2020 draft, and recently signed Justin Coleman (1 year, $2,250,000) this offseason. Miami has also kept a strong secondary piece in Eric Rowe, drafted Jevon Holland this offseason, and signed Jason McCourty.

With Byron Jones’ and Xavien Howard’s current contracts alone, the Dolphins’ cornerback position is one of the highest paid in the NFL. To spend more money on the cornerback position is nonsensical to me and now the Dolphins are in a chess match with Howard this offseason. The trading market for Howard seems to be soft, with minimal interest from other teams to gobble up his contract. The biggest rumour on the trading market is Arizona Cardinals DE Chandler Jones and a future 2nd round pick for Xavien Howard, which I don’t believe is the answer to either the Dolphins or Howard’s current issue. 

At this time, I think the chess match between Howard and the Miami Dolphins will be won by the Dolphins because I don’t believe they will give in to his contract demands or trade him to another team. I think the Dolphins will sweat Howard down to return to play in Miami Gardens in the 2021 season and may make suggestions of future contract renegotiations. But for now, the ball is in the Dolphins’ court and I simply don’t see them trading away the potential of Xavien Howard for a few chips. Maybe to free up cap space in the offseason, but for now, I can predict he will be in the aqua and white this fall.

Brandon McFayden

South Florida Tribune

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