Xavien Howard

AFC East Rumors: Jets, Manning, Dolphins

The Jets reportedly want to hire Peyton Manning as their next GM, but it doesn’t sound like the retired quarterback is interested in the job. The latest word on that front comes from Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, who hears from a source close to Manning that the notion of him becoming the Jets’ GM is “unrealistic” and being an NFL GM is “not a job he seems to want.”

Even though the 43-year-old doesn’t have any official front office experience, this isn’t the first time that he has been connected to a top job. In 2017, it was said that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam had interest in hiring Manning to a prominent executive role. He’s also indicated in the past that he would be open to such opportunities.

I like to listen in on any number of potential chapter two opportunities in my life,” Manning said in July of 2018. “I talked to some TV people and teams on the football side of it. I like listening, and it seems like people are reporting when I’m doing it.

Meanwhile, there’s conflicting word on whether the Jets have Manning on their radar for the GM job in the first place. Ultimately, it seems unlikely that Manning will be tapped to replace Mike Maccagnan and be the man to remove the interim GM tag from Adam Gase‘s title.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Gase says that he only wants to focus on being the Jets‘ head coach, but he fired Jets scout Bill Dekraker on Tuesday and told those around him that he wants to streamline the scouting department, Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter) hears.
  • The cap hits on cornerback Xavien Howard’s new six-year, $76.5MM deal are as follows (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald): $10.3MM this season, $13.3MM, $13.5MM, $14.4MM, $13.4MM, and $12.2MM. With his new deal, Howard is the only Dolphin under contract past 2022. But, even with that deal, the Dolphins are still in line to have more than $105MM in cap space next offseason.
  • Danny Shelton‘s deal with the Patriots is for one-year with a signing bonus of $75K, a base salary of $805K and bonuses/incentives worth up to $150K (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). All in all, Shelton will carry a modest cap charge of just over $1MM.

Contract Details: Howard, Ansah, Calhoun

A look at the details on recent deals from around the NFL:

Dolphins Sign Xavien Howard To Extension

The Dolphins have signed cornerback Xavien Howard to a five-year extension worth $76.5MM, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Howard will collect $46MM in guarantees, per Schefter, and receive $51MM over the first three years of the deal, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).

On both a total value and annual basis, Howard will now become the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. His new deal with surpass that of Josh Norman, who signed a five-year, $75MM deal with the Redskins in 2016. While Howard will reportedly pocket $46MM in guarantees, those likely aren’t full guarantees. At present, Norman also holds the record for the most fully guaranteed money given to a cornerback ($36.5MM).

Miami is entering a rebuilding period, and it had been unclear whether the club wanted to extend its best defensive player in Howard, attempt to retain him via the franchise tag in 2020, or explore his trade market. Collecting assets for a shutdown cornerback may have been an option, but instead the Dolphins will keep the 25-year-old Howard around for the long haul.

Howard, the 38th overall selection in the 2016 draft, is coming off the best campaign of his three-year career. In 12 games, Howard posted a league-leading seven interceptions and graded as the NFL’s No. 19 cornerback, per Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, ranked Howard eighth in success rate, meaning he was extremely successful at stopping opposing receivers short of the sticks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins, Xavien Howard Discussing Deal

The Dolphins met with cornerback Xavien Howard to discuss a new long-term deal, according to ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. Howard is set to enter the final year of his rookie deal this year, so a fresh contract could make sense for both sides.

Howard is expected to command at least $15MM annually on his next contract, but it’s unclear if Miami is willing to go that high. Some have speculated that Howard could be a trade candidate, but the Dolphins say he’s staying put.

Yes, I’m very confident that he’ll be there. Xavien has been in the building. He’s coming back, working out and getting in shape again after the Pro Bowl,” GM Chris Grier said. “He’s doing good. We’ve been hanging out around him. He wants to be a Miami Dolphin and we want him to be a Dolphin.”

If the Dolphins can’t hammer out a deal with Howard, they can wait until next year and potentially cuff him with the franchise tag. With club control beyond ’19, the Dolphins aren’t necessarily in any rush.

In a more pressing matter, the Dolphins want to hang on to right tackle Ja’Wuan James, an impending free agent. Unfortunately for Miami, things could get costly if he hits the open market.

Quality tackles are hard to come by, and Wolfe hears buzz at the combine that James could command upwards of $10MM/year. Two agents tell Wolfe that if they were representing James, they’d shoot to surpass the five-year, $47.5MM deal that Lions right tackle Rick Wagner signed two seasons ago. Beating that mark would make James the second-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lane Johnson. The Dolphins should know more this week when they meet with James’ reps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Unlikely To Be Active In Free Agency

The Dolphins are not expected to pursue top-end free agents when the market opens in March, sources tell Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

That strategy would represent a shift under new general manager Chris Grier, who last month was promoted to replace Mike Tannenbaum as Miami’s top personnel decision-maker. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has historically been open to adding expensive free agents, but deals for players such as Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons, and others didn’t help Miami get any closer to championship contention. With Grier and presumptive head coach Brian Flores now leading the club, the Dolphins seem to be planning for a different approach.

Indeed, Miami intends to “lose enough” to receive a high pick in the 2020 draft, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Adding free agents that would help the Dolphins win in 2019 won’t fit with the club’s long-term outlook, so Miami isn’t likely to be in contention for quarterback Nick Foles or Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, who could be linked to the Dolphins given his relationship with Flores.

Currently, the Dolphins project to have the NFL’s sixth-least amount of 2019 cap space with roughly $13.5MM in available funds. However, Miami could grow that figure to more than $56MM simply by cutting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, wide receiver DeVante Parker, and defensive ends Robert Quinn and Andre Branch. The latter three moves are considered all but certain, while Tannehill could potentially be a trade candidate.

Meanwhile, star cornerback Xavien Howard — who is entering the final year of his rookie deal — said he hasn’t had any extension talks with the Dolphins, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com. Jackson reported last month that Howard was expected to command at least $15MM annually on his next contract, but it’s unclear if Miami is willing to go that high.

Extra Points: Fournette, Jaguars, Foles, Gase, Dolphins

While today’s NFL news is almost entirely focused on coaching staff shakeups, there are still some other interesting nuggets out there. One very noteworthy situation is the drama unfolding with the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette. Yesterday, head of football operations Tom Coughlin blasted Fournette for sitting on the bench during the team’s Week 17 loss, and now the team is voiding the remaining guarantees in his contract, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN (Twitter link). The voiding is a result of Fournette’s suspension by the league for one game a couple of weeks ago for his role in a fight that broke out in the Jaguars/Bills game. The NFLPA could challenge any such move, but if his contract included an exception for suspensions, as most rookie deals do, there might not be much they can do.

As a first round pick, Fournette’s multi-million dollar salaries for 2019 and 2020 had been guaranteed, but that’s no longer the case. The team can now cut Fournette without paying him anything more, and a parting of ways whether by trade or release now seems like a very real possibility. It’s a pretty significant development as a few weeks ago no one would’ve guessed the 2017 fourth overall pick’s longterm future with the team was in doubt. The Jaguars invested a very early pick in Fournette, but the returns have been underwhelming. He’s been injury prone and not particularly efficient even when healthy, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this season. The Fournette situation will be one of the most interesting to monitor this offseason.

Here’s more from around the league on Black Monday:

  • Nick Foles scared Eagles fans everywhere when he went down with a rib injury late in the team’s win over the Redskins, but the undeniably clutch signal caller will be alright for the playoffs. Tests on his ribs came back “clear”, and Foles will start this weekend against the Bears, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). It’s great news for Philly’s chances, as they look to make a second straight magical run to the Super Bowl. No matter what happens with Foles, he’s extremely unlikely to be back with the Eagles in 2019.
  • Adam Gase has been fired by the Dolphins, and not all of Miami’s players are sad to see him go. “Many players in Dolphins locker room won’t be hurt by decision to fire Adam Gase”, reports Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who reports that some players told him they felt “alienated” by Gase and that he held some players to a “different standard.” Reports like these surely won’t help Gase in his quest to land a new head coaching job, although he is still expected to be a hot candidate.
  • Speaking of the Dolphins, one pleasant development for Miami this year was the breakout season cornerback Xavien Howard had. While Howard wants to sign a longterm extension with the Dolphins, his price tag might be too high, according to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald. Howard picked off seven passes this year, and told Beasley he wants to land the biggest contract for a cornerback in NFL history. Josh Norman currently holds that record, and Howard thinks he deserves to break it. Howard will be playing the final year of his rookie deal in 2019, and Beasley writes that “$15 million annually is expected to be the floor when Howard’s representatives begin extension talks this offseason.” The Dolphins will have a new coaching staff and front office, and it will be interesting to see if they’re willing to meet his demands as they head into a rebuild.

Dolphins’ Xavien Howard Out 3-6 Weeks

The Dolphins were already paper thin at cornerback. Now they’ve lost starter Xavien Howard for three to six weeks because of meniscus surgery, reports Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Howard – who suffered the injury in practice this week – previously underwent surgery on the same knee in June, which caused the rookie second-round pick from Baylor to miss all of training camp and the preseason.

Xavien Howard (featured)

Despite his inability to get on the field during the summer, Howard led all Dolphins corners in snaps (304) over the season’s first four weeks. Among Dolphins defensive backs, only standout safety Reshad Jones (314 snaps) has seen more action than Howard this year. Howard amassed 28 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in his first four NFL games (all starts), with Pro Football Focus ranking his performance a subpar 83rd among 111 qualifying corners.

Part of the reason Howard has been on the field so much in Year 1 is the Dolphins’ lack of capable corners. Their most proven option, big-money offseason pickup Byron Maxwell, is amid his second straight underwhelming campaign. That earned the former Seahawk and Eagle a demotion prior to Miami’s 22-7 loss to the Bengals in Week 4. Maxwell didn’t play a snap in that game, but he’ll return to a prominent role against the Titans in a battle of 1-3 teams on Sunday. Joining him will be Tony Lippett, who has played 67 snaps this year. All of those snaps came versus the Bengals, against whom Lippett picked up his first pro start. However, Cincinnati’s top receiver, A.J. Green, torched the 2015 fifth-rounder from Michigan State.

Maxwell aside, the only Dolphins corner with much of a track record is Chris Culliver, who’s on the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t played this year. Culliver is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered as a Redskin last November, but head coach Adam Gase expects the sixth-year man to factor into the Dolphins’ secondary when he’s eligible to return after the sixth game of the season.

“He’ll be in the conversation very fast,” said Gase.

Miami’s defense will enter Sunday ranked 20th in DVOA against the pass, 23rd in YPA allowed (7.9), 24th in quarterback rating against (98.4) and tied for 31st in interceptions (one).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Impact Rookies: Miami Dolphins

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with his insight on the Miami Dolphins’ draft class:

Well, I must say, the folks in South Beach surely know how to make draft day proceedings interesting. On Day One, they somehow managed to walk away with a player most had been calling the best prospect in the draft – Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil slid to the Dolphins at No. 13 due to a myriad of off-field issues back in college that was capped by a social media disaster (love your head gear, Laremy, but in the NFL, you have to wear a Riddell model).

The Dolphins entered the draft with eight selections and went home with the same, but they played a little bit of musical chairs in swapping out draft slots before they were done. They even ended playing doing ping-pong with the No. 186 overall selection in round six. Miami had first made a deal with Minnesota, sending two mid-round 2017 slots, along with pick No. 186 to the Vikings in order to move up and select Rutgers receiver Leonte Caroo with the draft’s 86th pick (round three). As the draft continued, the two teams again came to a deal – this time, Minnesota returned that No. 186 selection to South Beach for the No. 196 and No. 227 overall choices. They then used that choice to snatch another receiver, taking Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant.

After an entertaining and active draft weekend, here are the Dolphins rookies that I expect to make a mark in 2016:

First Round – Laremy Tunsil, OT (Ole Miss, No. 13 overall)

The new Miami coaching staff is looking to make major changes to their offensive front wall and Tunsil, if he lives up to his college hype, could be that unit’s foundation, much like high-priced veteran Ndamukong Suh is for the defensive line. Despite some poor decisions in life, there is no questioning Tunsil’s talent, but now comes the task of getting him into the lineup from Day One.

The coaches have slotted the rookie into the left guard spot, lining him up next to a man he will eventually replace at left tackle – Branden Albert. Gone from the first unit is 2015 left guard starter, Dallas Thomas. The team also signed New Orleans castoff, Jermon Bushrod. If the former Saint has anything left in the tank, he gives the Dolphins left side of the line three capable bodies to move around, if injuries do occur during the season.

Continue reading about Tunsil and the rest of the Dolphins’ rookie class..

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Draft Signings: Dolphins, Raiders, Saints

We’ll keep track of today’s draft signings here:

  • A second-round pick who is expected to play a key role for a Dolphins cornerback corps that lost most of its starters from 2015, Xavien Howard has signed his rookie deal, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. He’s the fifth player in Miami’s eight-man draft class to sign. For Baylor last season, Howard snared five interceptions and broke up 15 passes en route to All-Big 12 acclaim. He’ll vie to join Byron Maxwell as the Fins’ starting corners.
  • The Saints have now wrapped up their draft class’ contracts after signing fourth-round defensive lineman David Onyemata, according to the team’s website. The first University of Manitoba player to be drafted, the Nigeria native finished with 9.5 sacks in 37 games with the Bison. A 300-pound lineman who was selected No. 120 overall, Onyemata won the J.P. Metras Trophy, which is given to the best down lineman in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football.
  • The Raiders announced the signing of second-round defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Ward, selected with the No. 44 overall pick, played for Illinois over the last two seasons. In his time for the Fighting Illini, Ward started all 25 games, totaling 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. The 6’6″, 295-pound athlete climbed up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft, leading to his mid-second-round selection.

East Notes: Jets, Fins, Jones, Cowboys, Cousins

Until Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets can come to terms, Geno Smith is the most experienced quarterback on the roster. But Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News doesn’t view Mike Maccagnan‘s repeated endorsements of the underwhelming 2013 second-rounder as comments to be taken at face value.

While the Jets and Fitzpatrick play hardball, other executives around the league are wondering what exactly the team is planning at quarterback. Should Fitzpatrick sign to play a second season in New York, Maccagnan has tossed around the idea of carrying four quarterbacks, with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty residing in the developmental wing of the meeting room.

The Jets as an organization have discussed using the 2000 Patriots as a model for the four-QB setup. The Pats that year housed starter Drew Bledsoe, veteran backup John Friesz and developmental prospects Tom Brady and Michael Bishop. Hackenberg or Petty would theoretically be cast as Brady in the Jets’ scenario.

One NFL executive told Mehta the Jets considering carrying four passers “doesn’t make sense.” Smith and Petty would seemingly be jostling for a roster spot if the Jets were planning to employ the usual three. Mehta writes the Patriots’ thinking in 2000 was an aberration and merely hanging onto an extra signal-caller one season — at the expense of a key backup elsewhere — doesn’t equate to a franchise passer emerging from the group.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern divisions on rookie minicamp Saturday.

  • New Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph guesses Cameron Wake will be ready to play come Week 1, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. Wake is recovering from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and entering his age-34 season. The four-time Pro Bowler registered seven sacks in seven games last season before going down with the Achilles injury in October.
  • Identifying second-rounder Xavien Howard as a “six-foot guy with 5-10 corner movement skills,” Joseph said the rookie corner will vie for a Dolphins starting job with Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett, per Salguero.
  • Rex Ryan categorized Cardale Jones as a player with “a long way to go,” per an Associated Press report. “He’s got the physical gifts you look for, there’s no question about that,” Ryan said of the former Ohio State starter. “But you also notice that he’s just going through everything like, it’s spinning right now. He’s throwing behind guys. He doesn’t know where he’s going right now with it.” The Bills have Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel venturing into their contract seasons in 2016, leaving the franchise’s future unsettled. Jones was considered a potential first-round pick thanks to the tools he showed as a sophomore in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but being benched as a junior damaged his stock and relegated him into the fourth round.
  • The Cowboys are relocating Keith Smith and Rod Smith to fullback from their respective linebacker and running back positions to provide the them a better chance at making the 53-man roster, Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. Dallas’ fullback from 2013-15, Tyler Clutts remains a free agent. Keith Smith has played in 15 games the past two seasons as mostly a special teams cog, and Rod Smith joined the Cowboys last season after the Seahawks cut him.
  • Washington may be somewhat reluctant to invest long-term, franchise quarterback-level money in Kirk Cousins after he’d shown to be a proficient passer in just one season. But given the team’s recent deals for 2015 breakout players Josh Norman and Jordan Reed, Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com notes Cousins’ career arc doesn’t differentiate itself much from the now-extremely well-compensated cornerback and tight end. Cousins is currently attached to the $19.953MM non-exclusive franchise tag, which he’s signed.