Xavien Howard

Saints To Pursue Xavien Howard If Dolphins Make Him Available For Trade

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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Dolphins Hesitant On New Howard Deal

Brian Flores described Xavien Howard‘s minicamp holdout as a unique situation, and the veteran cornerback is believed to be entrenched in his pursuit of a new contract. The Dolphins do not appear eager to meet his demand.

Howard’s camp approached the Dolphins to communicate the five-year veteran’s desire for a new contract that at least pays him more than teammate Byron Jones, but the team is hesitant to redo the All-Pro’s deal, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com notes. This pause stems from the franchise having given Howard a then-cornerback-record contract two years ago. Four years remain on Howard’s five-year, $75.25MM pact.

The Dolphins paying Howard again so soon would certainly set an unusual precedent, and although the NFL’s first 10-INT player in 13 seasons has proven to be a consistent ballhawk, he has battled both injuries and an off-field issue. A domestic battery charge against Howard ended up being dropped, but the Dolphins dealt with that issue cropping up after a 2019 season in which the veteran corner missed 11 games. Howard also missed nine games as a rookie and four in 2018. Of course, in that 12-game 2018 season, Howard led the NFL with seven INTs.

Following Howard’s $15.1MM-per-year extension, the cornerback market moved for the first time in many years. Jones, Tre’Davious White, Marlon Humphrey and Jalen Ramsey signed for more than Howard in 2020; Ramsey’s $20MM-AAV accord leads all corners. The Dolphins gave Jones a five-year, $82.5MM pact last March. Jones’ deal came with $46MM fully guaranteed, which leads all NFL corners. Howard signed for $27.2MM fully guaranteed, which is ninth at the position.

Miami could opt to restructure Howard’s deal to provide additional bonus money now, or the team could piece together an incentive package for its top turnover producer. During Flores’ final year with the Patriots, the team agreed to incentive compromises with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Also in 2018, the Broncos gave Chris Harris an incentive package. In 2019, after Denver signed Kareem Jackson to make him the team’s highest-paid DB, the team gave Harris a raise. But this involved a contract that was set to expire at season’s end, so only part of Harris’ previous situation applies to Howard’s.

The Dolphins have discussed Howard in trades over the past year but set a high asking price for him. It will be interesting to see if they end up revisiting trade talks, in the event Howard does not show for training camp. The CBA limits his options for a holdout at that point of the calendar.

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Xavien Howard “Dug In” On Contract Issue

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard held out of minicamp and appears prepared to stay away from the club until he lands a new contract. As Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes, Howard is “dug in” on the issue, and if he does not get what he wants, the impasse could last well into August.

Howard is coming off a tremendous season, intercepting a league-leading 10 passes (the second time in three seasons he has paced the NFL in INTs), and grading out as the second-best CB in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. Though the five-year, $75MM pact Howard signed with the Dolphins 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 (one spot behind teammate Byron Jones, who is not as good as Howard but who was lucky enough to sign his free agent contract one year later).

So, if Howard had only one or two years left on his deal, a renegotiation would probably be a no-brainer for the Dolphins. But Howard has four years left, and it would set a dangerous precedent to rework a contract with that much time remaining. Plus, under the terms of the new CBA, Miami does have some leverage, as Howard would stand to lose $50K in unforgivable fines for each day of training camp he misses, and if he fails to report on time, he would lose an accrued season towards free agency.

In light of his dominant 2020 campaign, Howard might feel comfortable with those penalties. He may believe that, if the Dolphins won’t pay him, another club will be willing to trade for him and give him the top-of-the-market deal he’s seeking, thereby negating the fines and, perhaps, the free agency issue. However, Miami was justifiably demanding a king’s ransom for Howard at last year’s trade deadline, and it’s unlikely the club will lower its asking price too much.

Dolphins head coach Brian Flores recently acknowledged that Howard’s situation is a “unique” one, but he did not sound especially keen to rework the CB’s existing contract.

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Flores: Xavien Howard In ‘Unique’ Situation

The Dolphins extended Xavien Howard in 2019, making him the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback at the time. The corner market, which did not move much for several years, transformed in the time since. This has put the Dolphins in an unusual spot.

A minicamp holdout, Howard is signed through 2024 and remains the league’s sixth-highest-paid corner — at $15.1MM per year. Brian Flores confirmed Howard’s absence is contract-related and that the Dolphins have discussed this issue.

It’s pretty clear this is a contract situation, which we’ve talked about internally,” Flores said, via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. “X is a little bit of a unique situation. He was extended and now we’re talking about a potential renegotiation after one year. Those turn into longer conversations. We’ve obviously had a lot of talks and conversations about that and we’ll continue to have those and keep them internal, but it’s a very unique conversation.”

Teams are not big on adjusting contracts so early, which would make it surprising if the Dolphins gave Howard a new deal. Flores added that the Dolphins “love” Howard and want to retain him. The Dolphins have discussed Howard in trades, Wolfe adds, but the talks did not veer into the serious stage. Miami set a lofty asking price for the corner at last year’s deadline.

After one year, it’s honestly something that hasn’t been done before,” Flores said of giving Howard another extension. “Not saying we’re drawing a line in the sand, but different players set the market every year.”

Howard rebounded from a five-game 2019 season to lead the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2020. His 10 picks are the most since Antonio Cromartie notched 10 in 2007. No defender has surpassed the 10-INT mark over the past 40 years, giving Howard some momentum after he also helped the Dolphins to 10 wins. The soon-to-be 28-year-old corner has led the NFL in picks twice in the past three seasons, having recorded seven in 2018. Since Howard’s seven-INT season in 2018, the cornerback salary ceiling has climbed from $15MM to $20MM AAV (Jalen Ramsey).

He joins Patriots All-Pro Stephon Gilmore as a minicamp holdout. Gilmore is three years older but has a better resume and is going into a contract year. That places the Pats’ top corner in a traditional renegotiation spot, though New England-Gilmore talks have not advanced far. Howard has moved into far less traversed territory regarding a new contract.

Adding to his unusual situation: Byron Jones‘ $16.5MM-per-year Dolphins contract. While cornerback play is about more than interceptions, Howard has a 22-4 INT advantage among the highly paid 2015 draftees. Jones’ $46MM fully guaranteed, which dwarfs Howard’s $27.2MM, still tops all corners.

The 2020 CBA prevents teams from waiving fines from training camp holdouts, giving the Dolphins more leverage. It will be interesting to see how far Howard extends this atypical absence.

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Dolphins’ CB Xavien Howard To Hold Out

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard wasn’t on hand for the early portion of Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe). Meanwhile, head coach Brian Flores told reporters that he’s not sure if Howard will show up at any point during minicamp. If he continues to keep his distance, the Dolphins can fine him ~$93K for each of the three days he’s absent. 

Howard wants a new or revised deal, but he still has four years left on his five-year, $76MM extension. This year, he’s slated to make $12.1MM in base salary with a $13.5MM cap hit. In terms of earnings for this year, that puts him fifth at the position behind Stephon Gilmore, teammate Byron Jones, Trae Waynes, and Joe Haden. Howard may be particularly irked about being stationed behind Jones in ’21 compensation.

The Dolphins signed veteran cornerback Jason McCourty in May, which could provide insurance in the event of a standoff. Of course, the 33-year-old wouldn’t be a one-for-one replacement. Last year, Pro Football Focus placed McCourty of the top 75 at CB. Meanwhile, Howard was a first-team All-Pro in 2020 and a candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Howard, 28 in July, pushed the Dolphins to trade him last year. The Dolphins obliged to some extent, but scared clubs off with a “Laremy Tunsil type” asking price.

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Dolphins To Sign CB Jason McCourty

Jason McCourty is switching AFC East squads. The veteran cornerback is signing with the Dolphins, reports NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter). Ian Rapoport tweets that it’s a one-year deal for the 33-year-old.

Earlier this offseason, McCourty made it clear that he intended to continue his playing career, with the Giants being mentioned as a potential suitor. Instead of heading back to New Jersey (where he played both college and high school football), he’s heading to Miami. On the Dolphins, he’ll be reunited with head coach Brian Flores, who served as McCourty’s defensive coordinator during their lone season together in New England.

Besides the familiarity between the vet and the head coach, there could be another reason for the signing. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wonders (on Twitter) if the McCourty signing is “insurance against a Xavien Howard contract issue.” Howard is seeking a raise, and Salguero seems to imply that the cornerback could miss time due to the negotiations. Even if Howard is in the lineup, McCourty is still a savvy veteran who the coaching staff can safely rely on. The defensive back could also be an option at safety.

The Patriots had one of the NFL’s best cornerback contingents last season, and McCourty was one of the captains of the defense. However, he saw a reduced role in 2020, as the 33-year-old (34 in August) played on 65% of the Pats’ defensive snaps and started eleven games. Pro Football Focus placed him outside of the top 75 at his position — a significant drop from 2018 (No. 6) and 2019 (No. 18) rankings. The veteran ultimately finished the campaign having compiled 42 tackles and three passes defended.

McCourty accomplished his goals of playing alongside his brother, Devin McCourty, and winning a Super Bowl during his three-year stint in New England. The former sixth-round spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Titans before a one-year stint with the Browns in 2017.

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Police Case On Shooting Involving Xavien Howard Closed

A story made headlines yesterday when it was reported that Dolphins star cornerback Xavien Howard was mentioned in a police report concerning a shooting at his former agent Damarious Bilbo’s house, but it looks like it’s going to turn out to be a nothing-burger.

The Dunwoody, Georgia police department announced Monday that they’ve closed the case, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. According to the report yesterday somebody fired a shot into Bilbo’s house, and although Howard wasn’t suspected as the shooter police did request to interview him several times but he declined. Bilbo no longer represents Howard, but he negotiated his big five-year extension with Miami in 2019.

Jackson does not that while the police department said the case is now inactive, they could reopen it in the future if more information comes to light. It’s a good thing this drama has been mostly cleared up, since Howard has enough on his plate this offseason.

He’s since grown unhappy with that aforementioned extension and feels underpaid, and is reportedly expected to ask for a trade if the Dolphins don’t renegotiate it. Miami took calls on Howard around last trade deadline, but they were understandably seeking a hefty sum and nothing got done.

Howard was a first-team All-Pro this past season and legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He’s become arguably the NFL’s top ballhawk, leading the league with ten interceptions in 2020. A knee injury cost him most of the 2019 season, but he was an All-Pro in 2018 too and is still only 27.

Even with the recent drama, there will likely be no shortage of suitors if the Dolphins do decide to trade him. Wherever he’s playing in 2021 though, it sounds like he’s going to want to be the highest-paid corner in the NFL.

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Xavien Howard Appears In Police Report Concerning Shooting At Former Agent’s Home

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard appears in an official incident report concerning a shooting at the home of his former agent, Damarius Bilbo, which happened in June 2020. Howard’s name is misspelled in the report, but it is clear that he is the person being referenced (though his name appears without explanation or context).

Pro Football Talk first obtained the report from Dunwoody (GA) authorities several days ago. In it, we learn that on June 29, someone fired a bullet into Bilbo’s home. Bilbo was not home at the time, but his wife and 12-year-old son were. The son told police that he saw a gold sedan pull up to the front of the house, that he saw a black male wearing a hoodie exit the vehicle and walk onto the lawn, and that the person jumped back into the vehicle after a shot was fired through a window.

Luckily, no one was injured, and the investigation is ongoing. Howard’s name appears on the “Additional Name List” on the second page of the report, but as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets, Howard is not suspected of firing the gun. Jackson adds in a full-length piece that Howard is also not believed to have been in the vehicle. However, police have requested interviews on several occasions, which Howard declined.

Howard declined the first interview request back in August, saying that he was dealing with COVID-19. The most recent request was made within the last few weeks.

Howard’s attorney, Darren Heitner, said, “Xavien was not involved in this incident and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.” At this point, that certainly seems accurate, as Howard’s only connection to the incident appears to be his former business relationship with Bilbo and his association to other individuals who were listed as “Additional Names.” Both the Pro Football Talk report and the Jackson article provide further info if you want to dive deeper.

Bilbo represented Howard until the two had a business dispute in October, but it was Bilbo who negotiated Howard’s five-year, $75.3MM extension in 2019, which made Howard the highest-paid CB in the league at the time. Howard just turned in the finest season of his career and was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors, and as such, he is seeking a renegotiation of his contract (even though he is under club control through 2024). Jackson wonders if the Dolphins will use this incident as a reason to reject such a renegotiation, but recent reports have indicated that Howard will ask for a trade if he does not get a raise.

As Jackson writes, it’s unclear if the NFL will investigate this matter. For now, the Dolphins, Bilbo, and Dunwoody police have declined to comment.

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Deshaun Watson Won’t Veto Many Teams, Dolphins Favorite To Land Him?

The Deshaun Watson saga will likely take at least several more twists and turns before it’s finally resolved, and we’ve got a couple of new updates to pass along. The Texans are still insisting they have no plans to trade the star quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped teams from trying.

When/if the Texans finally relent to Watson’s trade demand, he does have some leverage in the form of a no-trade clause that can prevent him from getting dealt somewhere he doesn’t want to be. But it sounds like Watson’s main priority is getting out of Houston, and he won’t be too picky about a new destination. “Let me be very clear about this: I think Deshaun Watson is going to be open about where he’s traded to. I don’t think he’s going to veto too many teams. He wants to go anywhere other than the Texans,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com said recently, via Barry Jackson and Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

That makes it sound like unlike Matthew Stafford, who reportedly wanted to go play for Sean McVay and the Rams, Watson will just be happy to be anywhere else. There was a report last week that Watson would prefer the Jets to the Dolphins, but clearly he doesn’t feel all that strongly about it. That certainly could make facilitating a deal a lot easier. Additionally, it looks like the Dolphins could be emerging as a favorite to land him despite their recent commitment to Tua Tagovailoa.

Jackson and Beasley write that the “sense among league power brokers at this week’s Senior Bowl” is that “Miami is Watson’s likeliest destination.” Going further, one source told them that “Miami is seen as the front-runner behind the scenes.” The Dolphins have a boatload of draft capital and also a young quarterback they could trade, although there have been some reports that Houston might not be that interested in Tagovailoa.

If the Texans don’t want Tua, Jackson and Beasley float a scenario where the Dolphins package picks with shutdown corner Xavien Howard, who they write is “expected to ask for a trade” if he doesn’t get the new contract that he’s seeking. There are a lot of moving parts here, and we should know a lot more soon so make sure to check back.

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Xavien Howard Wants New Contract

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard just earned the second Pro Bowl bid of his career and is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also wants a new contract.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Howard’s camp will ask the team to renegotiate the five-year, $75MM contract that Howard signed with the ‘Fins in 2019. Although the contract made Howard the highest-paid CB in the league at the time, he is now the sixth-highest-paid corner, one spot behind teammate Byron Jones and his $16.5MM average annual value. Plus, Jones’ $46MM in full guarantees dwarfs Howard’s $27.2MM, and Howard is looking to strike while the iron is hot.

The 27-year-old is leading the league in interceptions this season (nine), and while he was limited to just five games in 2019, he also led the league in picks in 2018 (despite playing in just 12 games that year). Pro Football Focus considers him the best corner in football this season, with a stellar 90.0 grade in coverage.

From that standpoint, it’s easy to see why Howard is looking for a contract more akin to the market-topping five year, $105MM pact ($71.2MM fully guaranteed) that Jalen Ramsey recently pulled down from the Rams. But that’s the nature of the beast, particularly at a premium position like CB. One player sets the market and another player comes along, sometimes hours later, and resets it. But the first player generally doesn’t get another bite at the apple with four years left on his existing contract, and Howard is under club control through 2024.

That said, Miami knows what it has in Howard, and Salguero says it’s possible the team tries to appease him. It’s currently unclear if the Dolphins even know about Howard’s intentions at this point, and while they certainly don’t want to set a precedent by renegotiating a deal that has so much time remaining, Howard is obviously a game-changing talent.

The ‘Fins did field trade calls for Howard before this year’s deadline, but they put an enormous price tag on him. If negotiations go awry, they could theoretically look to deal him and would have no issue finding suitors, but they appear to be a team on the rise and surely don’t want to lose their best defensive player when they hope to be contending for titles.

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