Xavien Howard

Jaylon Jones, Dallis Flowers Vying For Colts Starting CB Job; JuJu Brents Likely To Start

An early-May report indicated the Colts could be in the market for veteran help in the secondary. Boundary cornerback would seemingly be the team’s focus here. In between the offseason program and training camp, however, no such signing transpired.

The Colts, who ranked 28th in pass defense last season, included slot ace Kenny Moore among their spate of re-signings but have questions about both outside cornerback posts. One of those spots looks to be earmarked for JuJu Brents, per The Athletic’s James Boyd, but the other position will bring competition (subscription required).

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Brents may not be a true lock to start, but the Colts chose him in the 2023 second round and used him as an eight-game starter last season. Brents was sidelined for two extended stretches, though he did suit up for the team’s final four games. Pro Football Focus slotted Brents 66th among corners last season.

Opposite the Indianapolis native, the Colts feature uncertainty. The team drafted two corners, selecting Jaylin Simpson in Round 5 and Micah Abraham in Round 6, but Boyd points to Jaylon Jones and Dallis Flowers as the primary competitors for the boundary job opposite Brents.

A 10-game starter last season, Jones worked with the first-stringers for most of the Colts’ offseason workouts. The team drafted Jones in the 2023 seventh round, and the Texas A&M product made the quick move into the starting lineup. Brents missing eight games and Flowers going down with an Achilles tear in early October contributed to this, and PFF ranked Jones 94th last season. He was charged with five touchdowns allowed. Flowers made five starts in two seasons, working behind Stephon Gilmore and the Isaiah RodgersBrandon Facyson tandem in 2022, but the Division II product was working with the starters each week before going down last year.

The Colts clearly believe in their current nucleus, as their batch of re-signings and extensions — headlined by the likes of Moore, Julian Blackmon, Michael Pittman Jr., DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart — illustrate, but the team having employed Moore and still ranking in the bottom five in pass defense seems to point toward a deficiency at a rather key area.

Options are limited, as could be expected, weeks away from camp. Xavien Howard is not expected to be a Colts consideration, Boyd adds, due to the the civil suit that came up since his Dolphins release. Another potential option, Steven Nelson, retired after nine seasons. Adoree’ Jackson remains available ahead of his age-29 campaign, as does Gilmore, who will turn 34 in September. Patrick Peterson is also available ahead of his age-34 season.

Indy only has two non-homegrown players — Buckner and Samson Ebukam — projected to start (Moore technically counts, as a Patriots UDFA, but he was a Colt before his rookie season started). In the free agency era, that is obviously a rather low number. As of now, the team is preparing to roll out an entirely homegrown secondary. The Flowers-Jones competition may change that, but for the time being, Indy’s inward-focused plan extends to cornerback.

CB Xavien Howard Named In Lawsuit

Xavien Howard‘s free agency now includes a legal aspect. The veteran corner has been named in a civil suit filed in Broward County, Florida in May, as detailed by Saira Anwer and Ryan Mackey of ABC Local 10 News.

Howard is accused of sending photos and videos of sexual acts involving women without their consent. The suit alleges he filmed and photographed one of the plaintiffs (‘Jane Doe’) performing sex acts without consent. Howard then circulated that explicit content to the public after she rejected his advances, the suit claims.

The other plaintiff in the suit (‘John Doe’) alleges that Howard impregnated his mother then demanded she have an abortion. Her refusal to do so resulted in sexually explicit material allegedly being texted to her son, who was a minor at the time. The suit further details that Jane Doe is seeking damages in excess of $50K.

In the event this matter were to be taken to criminal court, Howard could face charges of sexual cyber harassment, invasion of privacy by public disclosure of private facts and intrusion of privacy. The plaintiffs have not, however, pressed criminal charges at this time. Still, this marks the latest legal battle the 30-year-old has faced. Howard has been involved in a number of previous criminal and civil cases featuring allegations including stalking, negligence and domestic battery.

This offseason, the Dolphins released Howard in a cost-cutting move and he remains on the open market. The four-time Pro Bowler has not generated much in the way of known interest so far, but he has received medical clearance. The news of his involvement in this civil suit could result in a league investigation and give potential suitors reason to avoid pursuing a contract for at least the time being. Howard’s playing future will remain uncertain pending further developments in this case.

CB Xavien Howard Medically Cleared

Xavien Howard‘s time with the Dolphins is over, but he is one of the more accomplished free agents still available. The former All-Pro corner is back to full health, so his market could soon see movement.

Howard has received clearance for football activities, as noted by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The 30-year-old was limited to 13 games in 2023 as he dealt with a foot injury, but he has now recovered. Miami designated Howard a post-June 1 cut, and a reunion on a low-cost deal is not in the cards.

Few developments have been seen since Howard confirmed he will be playing on a new team in 2024. The four-time Pro Bowler has, however, expressed interest in a Texans deal. Houston was busy in free agency at the cornerback spot, bringing in C.J. Henderson, Jeff Okudah and Myles Bryant this offseason. The team also used its top pick (No. 42) on Kamari Lassiter during the draft, adding another starting-caliber option into the mix.

For that reason, Howard may need to look elsewhere in terms of potential new landing spots. The Texans do, on the other hand, have over $23MM in cap space and Howard has indicated a willingness to take less on a new deal if it allows him to join a contender. After making a surprise run to the divisional round of the postseason last year, Houston would certainly qualify in that regard.

Howard has twice led the NFL in interceptions (recording seven in 2018 and 10 in 2020), but he posted just one in each of the past two seasons. The Baylor product also surrendered four touchdowns and allowed a passer rating of 101.2 in 2022, although last season the latter figure saw a notable rebound. Many veterans take one-year pacts when signed after the draft, and it would come as no surprise if Howard were to follow suit this year. Still, it will be interesting to see if he fields offers from CB-needy teams in the near future.

CB Xavien Howard Interested In Texans Deal

Xavien Howard remains unsigned after making it clear he would not remain with the Dolphins on a new contract. The former All-Pro corner is thus on track to join a new team, and he has publicly identified a potential landing spot.

[RELATED: Texans To Add CB C.J. Henderson]

During an appearance on The OGs Podcast, Howard made a number of notable comments. One of them was that he would be interested in a deal with his hometown Texans. The 30-year-old (who was released by the Dolphins at the start of the league year) could provide Houston with a starting corner to partner with Derek Stingley Jr. and add a veteran presence to the team’s secondary.

“I would love to do that; back at home, the crib,” Howard said, via Sports Illustrated’s Coty M. Davis“I have Houston Rockets and the Texans tatted on me… It’s a realistic option for me. They have a hell of a quarterback. I love a defensive coach.”

Indeed, Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud and head coach DeMeco Ryans‘ respective showings from 2023 has made Houston an attractive franchise for free agents. Edge rusher Danielle Hunter is among the players who signed there in the early portion of the league year in a move which also represented a homecoming. Howard following suit would give the Texans a four-time Pro Bowler who has posted at least 12 pass deflections in each of the past four seasons (to go with 17 interceptions in that span).

The Texans (or any other interested team) would no doubt have concerns about a long-term investment given Howard’s age and, potentially, his asking price. The Baylor product will likely not come close to the $18MM AAV of his previous pact, something which could especially hold true if he elects to take less than market value to play on a contending team. Howard indicated a willingness to do so.

“I’d rather take a pay cut to go to a team that’s going to go further in the playoffs,” he said (h/t Davis’ colleague Omar Kelly). “I’ve got my money and stuff like that. I’m to the point, how much money do you really need?… I’ve already [been] paid, but now [a Super Bowl is] what I’m looking forward to.”

After making a run to the divisional round of the postseason last year, the Texans fit the bill of a potential contender in the AFC. Their efforts to add a new starter at the CB spot would certainly become notable with a Howard signing, and with roughly $20MM in cap space an agreement could be feasible. It will be interesting to see the extent to which Howard’s interest in a deal is mutual.

Dolphins Unlikely To Retain G Robert Hunt, DT Christian Wilkins; CB Xavien Howard Will Not Return

As of Friday afternoon, the Dolphins are still $20MM over the cap. They will not pick up any savings from the Xavien Howard post-June 1 cut for months, meaning more moves will need to transpire for the team to move under the 2024 salary ceiling.

This will affect how the Dolphins proceed with their top two free agents. Barring an 11th-hour change, both Robert Hunt and Christian Wilkins look to be headed out the door. Each will be a candidate to land a near-top-market deal at their respective positions, and it does not look like the Dolphins will be prepared to match such an offer.

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Hunt’s return looks unlikely due to the salary he will command, per the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. Kevin Dotson‘s $16MM-per-year Rams deal (feat. $32MM guaranteed) may set the floor for Hunt, who has been a more consistent player. The Dolphins have maintained a good relationship with Hunt’s camp during this process, Jackson adds, but the market will probably push them out of the bidding. The parties discussed an extension months ago, but with the Dolphins paying Austin Jackson along with Terron Armstead, Hunt is probably on his way out.

Moved from right tackle to right guard in 2021, the former second-round pick has played well inside. As injuries and position changes (along with an O-line coach carousel) continued to take place over the past three years in Miami, Hunt was probably the team’s most reliable O-lineman. But with a top-10 guard contract likely, the Dolphins will face the prospect of replacing both their starting guards and starting center. Connor Williams is also a UFA-to-be, and while he is coming off a December ACL tear, he played well on a two-year Dolphins deal and should garner extensive interest regardless.

The Dolphins are believed to still be trying to keep Wilkins, effectively revealing a priority queue with Hunt at No. 2, but the price point will presumably move them out of the running. Wilkins should be expected to command an average salary in the $24-$25MM range, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said recently. The Dolphins offered the 2019 first-round pick top-10 DT money last year, before the sides broke off talks ahead of the season, but Jackson adds the team has not shown it is comfortable going to the $25MM-AAV place to retain Wilkins.

ESPN’s run stop win rate ranked Wilkins in the top two in 2021 and ’22, and after the Dolphins were hesitant to go to the Quinnen WilliamsDexter LawrenceDaron PayneJeffery Simmons level with their offer due to Wilkins’ modest sack production (11.5 from 2019-22), the Clemson alum ripped off a nine-sack contract year. He is set to cash in, with teams like the Texans and Vikings expected to be in on the bidding. In that likely event, the Dolphins will be tasked with replacing a five-year starter.

Elsewhere on Miami’s depth chart, no Dolphins-Howard reunion — one GM Chris Grier floated as a possibility — will come to pass. Regarding a return to Miami at a reduced rate, the former All-Pro cornerback said (during a 560 WQAM interview) “that door is closed.” Howard expressed a similar sentiment earlier this offseason when asked if he would take a pay cut to stay. That said, the soon-to-be 31-year-old corner will need to play the 2024 season at a lower rate compared to the big-ticket deal — which included $50.6MM in new money — the Dolphins gave him after the Byron Jones deal prompted the ballhawk to gripe about his own contract in the early 2020s.

Dolphins Prepared To Tag DT Christian Wilkins; CB Xavien Howard Reunion In Play

The Dolphins have work to do in the near future to achieve cap compliance, and a pair of notable defenders in Christian Wilkins and Xavien Howard could find themselves playing elsewhere next season. In both players’ cases, though, a continued Miami tenure cannot be ruled out.

Wilkins profiles as a top franchise tag candidate given his importance to the Dolphins’ defensive front. The former first-rounder is on track for free agency after extension talks were tabled until after the 2023 campaign. Wilkins certainly helped his value by recording career-highs in sacks (nine), QB hits (23) and pressures (30) this year. As was the case previously, he could therefore join the list of defensive tackles landing lucrative second contracts.

The position’s market saw a new second tier emerge below Aaron Donald during the 2023 offseason. Jeffery SimmonsDexter LawrenceEd Oliver and Quinnen Williams secured new pacts after Daron Payne hammered out an agreement with the Commanders following the team’s decision to tag him. Miami would be hit with a $22.1MM cap charge with a Wilkins tag.

To no surprise, general manager Chris Grier noted at the Combine that a franchise tag remains a consideration in Wilkins’ case (h/t Adam Beasley of Pro Football Network). Using it would further complicate Miami’s cap situation, but it would ensure he would not be able to test the market in free agency once the new league year begins. A long-term deal would be an obvious team priority, and it would lower his 2024 cap figure. Tagged players can continue negotiating extensions until mid-July before being forced to play on the one-year tender.

Grier also noted that the door is still open to cornerback Xavien Howard remaining with the Dolphins on a new deal. Miami informed the veteran last month that he will be released in a cost-cutting move, but not until the new league year opens on March 13. A post-June 1 designation would be necessary for the Dolphins to see notable cap savings. As a result, time could still exist for both parties to come to a new agreement.

Howard’s release would save $18.5MM presuming it proves to be one of the two post-June 1 cuts teams are allowed each offseason. An agreement eating into that total would come as a surprise, but the 30-year-old would still be a capable member of Miami’s secondary if he were to be retained. One of the league’s top ballhawks during his Dolphins tenure, Howard recorded only one interception in 2023, though, and the team already has Jalen Ramsey on the books for the next two seasons at a significant cap hit.

Miami will be a team to watch over the coming days as the franchise tag deadline (March 5) and the start of free agency approaches. Further clarity on the team’s plans with Wilkins and Howard will be in place soon as Miami seeks to improve in general on defense compared to last year’s showing.

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, NFL.com’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 NFL.com. 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.

AFC East Notes: Becton, Jets, Howard, Bills

Mekhi Becton‘s quest to solidify himself as the Jetslong-term left tackle did not come to fruition, but the injury-prone blocker did finish the season without an IR trip. A few other Jets O-linemen could not say the same. Becton’s contract year consisted of 16 games and starts at both right and left tackle. While the 2020 first-round pick would like to re-sign with the Jets, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini notes the team is unlikely to have a strong interest in a second contract.

Pro Football Focus graded Becton 68th overall among tackles this season, and Next Gen Stats charged the slimmed-down tackle with 12 sacks allowed. That said, the Jets will need to be aggressive in their pursuit of tackle help this offseason. Duane Brown is 38 and played out a two-year contract. He and Becton departing would leave the Jets with two tackle vacancies, though the team has explored the possibility of shifting Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle on a full-time basis. But Vera-Tucker, drafted as a guard, has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two years.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • A player the Jets look to have more interest in signing, Bryce Huff, will not stay just because he has developed as a Jet. Pointing to his family and those around him, the young defensive end said (via SNY’s Connor Hughes) he will take the best offer he receives in free agency. The Jets, however, do want to re-sign Huff, per GM Joe Douglas. A former UDFA, Huff broke through in his contract year to lead the team with 10.5 sacks despite not starting any games. The Jets and Huff, who has not graded well as a run defender, discussed an extension during the season. The Jets have first-rounders Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald, along with John Franklin-Myers, but losing Huff would be a blow for Robert Saleh‘s defense.
  • On the same note, Xavien Howard is unlikely to accept a pay cut to stay with the Dolphins, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Beasley notes. “No matter where I’m going, I’m still going to do my thing,” Howard said. “Whatever comes with it, I’m excited about what will happen.” The Dolphins’ longest-tenured starter, at eight seasons, Howard is signed through 2026 on the contract he agreed to upon voicing issue with Byron Jones out-earning him. Miami gave Howard a five-year, $90MM extension in 2022, but the veteran ballhawk is now 30 and finished the season sidelined with a foot sprain. The Dolphins, who released Jones as a post-June 1 cut last year, can only recoup notable savings by using this designation on Howard. Now employing Jalen Ramsey as its top corner, Miami would save $18.5MM this year by using the post-June 1 designation on Howard.
  • The Bills will be without Gabe Davis in a second playoff game, ruling out the contract-year wideout for their divisional-round game. Davis is battling a PCL sprain, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Davis represents an intriguing free agent-to-be, having scored 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons, but the Bills have seen 2022 fifth-rounder Khalil Shakir emerge as a player capable of being a low-cost Stefon Diggs complement going forward.
  • Additionally, Buffalo has not ruled out Terrel Bernard for its Kansas City rematch. Bernard was carted off the field against the Steelers, but the Bills’ top tackler only suffered a sprained ankle, Rapoport adds. The second-year linebacker aggravated the ankle injury he sustained earlier this season, per the Buffalo News’ Ryan O’Halloran. While the Bills are already without Matt Milano at linebacker, starter Tyrel Dodson — who missed the team’s wild-card game — is on track to return in Round 2.
  • Leonard Floyd collected an additional $1MM by reaching 10 sacks this season, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The May free agency addition signed a one-year, $7MM deal, one that has been vital due to Von Miller‘s struggle to return to form following his second ACL tear. Floyd, 30, totaled a career-high-matching 10.5 sacks this season.

Dolphins’ Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel Likely Done For Season

Already down Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb for the season, the Dolphins continue to run into brutal injury luck on their front seven. Injuries to Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel on Sunday night appear likely to be season-enders.

Just activated from IR ahead of Week 18, Baker sustained a wrist injury for which he has already undergone surgery. The sixth-year linebacker is out for the Chiefs matchup and likely the rest of the playoffs, according to NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe. Van Ginkel, who has played a key role since Phillips’ injury, is also likely done for the season due to the foot injury that forced him out of Sunday’s night’s game.

In addition to these adjustments DC Vic Fangio will need to make, Mike McDaniel said the team is not expected to have Xavien Howard back against the Chiefs. Additionally, backup edge rusher Cameron Goode suffered a torn patellar tendon in the loss to the Bills and will miss the season, McDaniel said.

In the event Miami’s defensive personnel turns this into a shootout — a less common occurrence with this Chiefs edition compared to previous Patrick Mahomes-piloted teams — McDaniel said (via Wolfe) Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert are looking more likely to return to action Saturday night. Waddle has missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, while Mostert — the NFL’s touchdown leader, with 21 — missed Weeks 17 and 18 with knee and ankle trouble.

Still, Fangio’s troops are depleted to a point the defense will look quite different even from the shorthanded crew that took the field against the Bills. Goode’s injury left the Dolphins with Emmanuel Ogbah and Melvin Ingram on the edge. Fangio had benched the former early this season, and the Dolphins only re-signed the latter in December. The team used Ingram as a practice squad elevation in Week 18, doing so not long after cutting Jason Pierre-Paul. It would be interesting if the Dolphins reached out to JPP in this emergency circumstance. Miami still has quality personnel inside, in Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler, but its OLB setup has been gutted.

Van Ginkel has been effective as both a rotational rusher and a starter this season, notching a career-high six sacks along with 19 QB hits. He also posted a pick-six against the Commanders. Baker battled back from an MCL sprain; the Dolphins had used their final IR activation on their middle linebacker last week. A seventh-round pick, Goode played only 76 defensive snaps this season.

Dolphins’ Jerome Baker Returns To Practice; Xavien Howard Unlikely For Week 18

The Dolphins are moving closer to making their final IR-return decision. With one activation remaining, Miami is preparing to use it on Jerome Baker. The veteran linebacker returned to practice Wednesday.

Baker moving from the IR-return window back to the 53-man roster would close the book on the Dolphins’ injury activations this season. Isaiah Wynn and Salvon Ahmed reside on Miami’s IR. While Mike McDaniel did not close the door on Wynn returning when he went down in November, the second-year Dolphins HC classified the left guard starter coming back as an unlikely scenario.

A sixth-year Dolphins linebacker, Baker has been out since suffering an MCL injury in early December. The Dolphins gave Baker a three-year, $37.5MM extension in 2021; the deal runs through the ’24 season. Baker has been a starter since his rookie season, making 82 starts for the team that drafted him in the 2018 third round.

McDaniel did not confirm Jaylen Waddle would miss Sunday’s pivotal Bills rematch, though that is the expectation. But the young HC did say (via NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe) Xavien Howard is not expected to go in Week 18. Howard sustained a foot injury against the Ravens.

Baker, 27, has excelled as a hybrid performer during his career. Stationed as an off-ball linebacker, the Mike Tannenbaum-era draftee has 22.5 career sacks. Only 1.5 of those have come in Vic Fangio‘s defense this season, but Baker has extensive pass-rushing productivity in his past. That could be relevant for a Dolphins team that has seen Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb suffer season-ending injuries. The Dolphins have until Saturday afternoon to activate Baker from IR.

Defensive injuries hounded Fangio during his time in Denver, when Chubb and Von Miller rarely saw the field together during the current Dolphins DC’s three-season run as the Broncos’ head coach. The Chubb ACL tear coming a month after Phillips’ Achilles tear reminds of those Broncos health issues, though these maladies have hit a Dolphins team that clinched a playoff berth. Miami, which played half the season without Jalen Ramsey, can lock down the AFC’s No. 2 seed with a win over Buffalo. A loss would drop the Dolphins to a wild-card position.

The Dolphins lost Howard four plays into their blowout defeat against the Ravens. While the team played without Ramsey for a chunk of the season, it was unable to deter Lamar Jackson in a likely MVP-clinching performance. The Ravens superstar threw five touchdown passes against the depleted Dolphins, who lost Chubb late in the game.

Howard, 30, has missed three games this season already. While Pro Football Focus has not viewed Howard’s ninth NFL season as especially strong, ranking him 99th among cornerbacks, the veteran ballhawk is a key part of Miami’s defense. Howard has 29 career interceptions, though only one of those thefts has come this season. It would certainly sting the Dolphins if he and Waddle were unavailable, as Miami has seen a number of starters go down during the season’s second half.