The Saints have been linked to free agent cornerback Richard Sherman throughout this offseason, but Sherman’s recent legal troubles have probably severed that link, at least for the time being. Still, New Orleans would probably like another quality corner to line up opposite Marshon Lattimore, and GM Mickey Loomis could have his eye on one of the best DBs in the league.
According to Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (via Twitter), the Saints will be heavily involved in the bidding for Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard should Miami make Howard available via trade. Howard has four years remaining on his current contract, so the Dolphins are understandably reluctant to rework it, but Howard is said to be dug in on his desire for a new deal. If player and team cannot find some common ground, Howard could be on the move, despite the blow that would deal to Miami’s hopes of contention in 2021.
Though the five-year, $75MM pact Howard signed with the ‘Fins in 2019 made him the highest-paid corner in the league at the time, his $15MM AAV is now the sixth-highest mark in football. And on the heels of a terrific 2020 season in which he led the league with 10 interceptions and graded out as the second-best CB in the NFL per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, Howard is trying to strike while the iron is hot.
Howard is attached to a $12MM salary for 2021, so the Saints, who have about $10MM of cap space, would need to carve out some room to accommodate a Howard acquisition (unless Miami kicks in some cash). But financial constraints never seem to be much of an issue for Loomis, who, along with vice president of football administration Khai Harley, continues to manipulate the cap in new and creative ways.
Obviously, Howard’s desire for a market-topping contract wouldn’t change if he ends up in New Orleans, so Loomis would also need to be prepared to pony up a $20MM/year deal in addition to premium draft capital. Such a maneuver could lead to a Lattimore departure in 2022, but at least for one season, the Saints would boast perhaps the top CB duo in football.
Although the Dolphins still have leverage over Howard given the amount of time left on his contract and the hefty fines that the CBA imposes for training camp holdouts, veteran NFL reporter Michael Silver says trade chatter is swirling around the 28-year-old (Twitter link). Silver adds that Howard is unlikely to get the new deal he wants from Miami, and that there are several teams in win-now mode that are considering a trade. He does not specifically name the Saints as one such club, though New Orleans does profile as a win-now outfit.
With training camp fast approaching, there should be more clarity on Howard’s future fairly soon.
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