Xavien Howard is staying in Miami. The Dolphins and their star cornerback have agreed to a restructured deal that gives Howard more earning power, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network was first to report (via Twitter).
This was the expected outcome after we learned yesterday that Howard had returned to practice. And while this transaction is believed to mark the first time in league history that a player with four years remaining on his contract has received new money and guarantees — without a full-blown extension, at least — it doesn’t seem like a particularly onerous commitment from Miami’s perspective.
The Dolphins fully guaranteed Howard’s 2021 salary of $12.785MM and added $3.5MM in incentives tied to playing time and a Pro Bowl or All-Pro appearance, as veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson details (Twitter link). Plus, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com report, Howard will see $6.775MM of his $12.975MM 2022 pay fully-guaranteed right away. The remainder is guaranteed for injury for now and will become fully-guaranteed on the first day of the 2022 league year (Twitter links). Cameron Wolfe of the NFL Network tweets that the club is also waiving the $93K of fines that Howard incurred for holding out of minicamp.
Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that the Dolphins have assured Howard that they will return to the negotiating table in February or March of 2022 (Twitter link via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald). Of course, Howard will need to stay healthy and continue to perform at a high level, and one hopes that player and team are aligned on the potential outcomes of a renegotiation next year. For instance, if Howard believes the team is open to an extension but the team is thinking more along the lines of another restructure, the relationship could sour quickly.
When Howard signed his current deal in 2019, he was the highest-paid corner in the league. But his current $15MM/year average now ranks just sixth at the position, and as he led the NFL with 10 interceptions last year and graded out as the second-best CB in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, he was pushing for a pay bump and requested a trade to force the issue.
Ultimately, the fact that he was still under club control for four years limited what the Dolphins were willing to do, but the team is certainly happy to have its top defender back on the field and at peace with his contract status. The adjustments Miami made to Howard’s deal seem like a small price to pay for that.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.