Dolphins To Release CB Xavien Howard

Part of two pricey cornerback tandems in Miami, Xavien Howard did not have a chance to operate in the second one for too long. Less than a year after the Dolphins acquired Jalen Ramsey to pair him with Howard, they will move on from the latter.

The Dolphins have informed Howard he will be cut,’s Mike Garafolo and Peter Schrager report. Chosen in the 2016 draft, Howard is the Dolphins’ longest-tenured player. The two-time All-Pro will soon become a high-profile free agent. This move comes shortly after the Dolphins released Emmanuel Ogbah. Howard’s deal ran through 2026.

This release will not occur until the start of the league year, per This is presumably because the Dolphins intend to designate Howard, as they did Byron Jones in 2023, a post-June 1 cut. Not making this designation would prevent Miami from benefiting much from releasing Howard. By using it, the Dolphins would save $18.5MM this year. If Miami did use the post-June 1 option, its savings would barely exceed $2MM.

Teams can make two post-June 1 cuts each year, and although the league no longer mandates teams wait until June to make these moves, the Dolphins cannot release Howard now and designate him a post-June 1 cut. Needing to wait until the start of the 2024 league year, the Dolphins will still make plans for a 2024 roster that does not include Howard. Between the Ogbah and Howard moves — assuming the latter’s release is of the post-June 1 variety — the Dolphins will save more than $32MM. That moves the team to within $6MM of cap compliance.

One of this era’s top ballhawks, Howard has intercepted 29 passes — tied for fourth-most in Dolphins history. Twice leading the league in INTs, Howard has been a starter throughout his career. Set to turn 31 in June, Howard will now explore options outside of Miami. He is expected to generate significant interest, per Garofolo and Schrager. With the Bears preparing to use the franchise tag on Jaylon Johnson and the Chiefs probably considering the tag for L’Jarius Sneed, this year’s cornerback market could thin out quickly soon. Players like Howard would benefit.

Howard’s season under Vic Fangio was far from his best. Intercepting only one pass, Howard allowed 62.9% of the passes thrown his way to be completed. He brought down his passer rating-against number from 101.2 in 2022 to 81.3 under Fangio, but Pro Football Focus ranked the experienced cover man 98th among corners last season. Howard, however, had been one of this period’s better corners in previous years. The Dolphins rewarded him on multiple occasions in the process.

During the second half of the 2010s, the cornerback market stagnated. This affected Howard, who had signed a five-year, $75.25MM extension in May 2019. Despite Howard’s deal being finalized three years after Josh Norman‘s then-record-setting Washington pact, it barely raised the CB ceiling. Howard became disgruntled after the Dolphins agreed to terms with Jones on a more lucrative contract in 2020. Reaching free agency, the ex-Cowboys first-rounder did raise the bar. Howard, who had intercepted 10 passes during Jones’ 2020 Miami debut, was already seeking a new deal by 2021.

When talks did not progress that year, Howard requested a trade. The Dolphins did not budge there, but they not hold their ground for long on the financial front. They reworked Howard’s deal before the ’21 season, fully guaranteeing his salary while adding incentives. In March 2022, the Dolphins further rewarded their top corner by redoing his contract — an agreement that provided $50.6MM in new money. This reworking ballooned the dead money associated with a Howard cut, though it was probably unrealistic for the Dolphins to keep the veteran tied to his 2019 pact for two more seasons given the circumstances.

Howard did not quite live up to the latest contract adjustment, which the team made despite his original extension running through 2024. With Jones attached to a higher AAV and a better guarantee, the Dolphins broke with norms and gave into Howard’s demands that year. Howard soon became indispensable, with Jones missing all of the ’22 season with what looks like a career-ending injury.

Earlier this offseason, Howard said he was not prepared to take a pay cut if the Dolphins were to ask. It is unclear if they did, but the organization will close the book on a lengthy CB chapter. Howard also brought headaches off the field. In addition to the contract grumbling, the four-time Pro Bowler was arrested on a domestic battery charge. It was later dropped, but the Baylor alum was later named in a police report in connection with a shooting at his former agent’s home. That case was later closed. Howard never encountered a suspension during this period, and the Dolphins compensated him well over the course of his career.

Acquiring Ramsey in 2023, the Dolphins gave their new CB prize more guaranteed money by reworking his deal post-trade. With Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle on the Fins’ extension radar, they look to be moving forward with just one high-end cornerback payment on their books. The Dolphins also have UDFA Kader Kohou on a rookie deal and used a second-round pick on Cam Smith last year.

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