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Buyer Beware on Dolphins All-Pro CB Xavien Howard

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard prepares to warm up during NFL football practice, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

All-Pro Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard isn't beating around the bush. He doesn't feel he's being compensated fairly, doesn't think the team has dealt with those feelings in good faith and wants to be traded. 

Meanwhile, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that several organizations—including two playoff teams—have inquired about Howard's services. 

Two words: caveat emptor. Buyer beware. 

Yes, Howard is one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. And yes, he's coming off a fantastic campaign in which he became the first player in more than a decade to intercept 10 passes in a single season. 

But there are plenty of red flags attached to a potential trade for a player who would also require a new contract. 

Howard signed his deal just two years ago. It's the fourth-most valuable cornerback contract in the NFL. He's one of six corners making more than $15 million per season, and only a handful of corners possess contracts with more practical guarantees than his.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Howard boasts that he's "one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL," but he's already paid that way. And while the 2020 tape does support his claim, some caveats are in order. 

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First, Howard's broad body of work isn't as favorable. He's missed the majority of two of his five professional seasons, has been a first-team All-Pro just once and surrendered a 117.0 passer rating in coverage right after signing that lucrative contract in 2019. He played in just five games that season and was ejected from one of them for slapping an opposing player in the facemask.

Even in 2020, he was responsible for allowing four touchdowns. Sure, 10 picks beats the heck out of four touchdowns allowed, but both numbers were inflated by the fact that only six corners were targeted more often than him. 

Fellow first-team All-Pro Jalen Ramsey was targeted 4.7 times per game, compared to 6.3 targets for Howard, who ranked outside the top 100 qualified defenders in terms of yards allowed per target. Oh, and in 2020 he was once again ejected as a result of an altercation with an opponent. 

A team contemplating a trade for Howard should consider all of that, as well as the possibility that it's buying high. He's not old, but 28 isn't young for a corner either.

Recently, Chris Harris Jr. peaked as a first-time All-Pro at age 27 and hasn't been the same since; Asante Samuel wasn't the same after 28; Richard Sherman began to decline after his age-28 campaign; 31-year-old Patrick Peterson was last a Pro Bowler at 28; Darrelle Revis' final All-Pro season came at age 29; and the same could be said of Nnamdi Asomugha.

Most corners peak in their late 20s. Darrelle Revis is one example.
Most corners peak in their late 20s. Darrelle Revis is one example.Winslow Townson/Associated Press/Associated Press

Can he sustain this? Can he stay healthy? Can he avoid becoming a distraction? Can he go a full season without an ejection? These are all fair questions, which is why it might not make sense for a team to give up capital in a trade in order to pay him even more than he already makes. 

The timing of Howard's request for more money is ridiculous in itself. Not only does it come just two years into his five-year deal, but it also comes with the salary cap down significantly as a result of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the league in 2020. 

He's trying to capitalize on a career year, but this isn't the time to attempt to break the bank. 

Before the Dolphins paid up for Howard, he had intercepted 11 passes and earned one Pro Bowl nod in his previous two seasons, with a combined approximate value (AV) mark of 18 at Pro Football Reference. Since then, he has 11 interceptions and one Pro Bowl honor in two seasons, with a combined AV of 21. 

Is that really worthy of a pay increase in a down year across the league financially? 

It's possible a contender won't care. That team might believe Howard could be the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to capture a Super Bowl, and that's fair. But anybody who attempts to acquire him should realize that doing so won't represent a good long-term investment. 

        

Cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted. Statistics via Pro Football Reference

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.

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