Miami cornerback Xavien Howard revealed Tuesday night at the onset of Dolphins training camp that he has formally requested a trade, the latest expression of continued displeasure with his contract. Howard explained via social media that the Dolphins declined efforts by him and his agent, David Canter, to re-work his existing deal -- a five-year, $75.25 million pact that he signed in 2019, and which he believes he's outperformed -- to include more guaranteed dollars, leaving him feeling disrespected.
Part of Howard's frustration stems from the fact that he's not even the highest-paid cornerback on the Dolphins' roster (Byron Jones, who signed as a free agent to a mega-deal worth $82.5 million during the 2020 offseason, earns $16.5 million per year, compared to Howard's average of $15.05 million). Howard was an All-Pro last season with an NFL-high 10 interceptions, but he subsequently skipped offseason activities and drew $93,000 in fines.
At a premium position like cornerback, Howard would represent a major upgrade for lots of teams. Without respect to salary-cap implications, here are a few potential trade partners, listed alphabetically, who would be thrilled to add him:
When coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired two years ago with a head-scratching 35-40 record at the college level, he was rightly tied at the hip to his innovative offense and whether No. 1 draft pick Kyler Murray was the man to run it. Entering 2021, Murray is now a budding star at quarterback, but his coach is connected more to the bottom line: After compiling a 13-18-1 record, there are expectations of playoff appearances, not just points. The Cardinals have lost CB Patrick Peterson. Yes, they added vets like Malcolm Butler and Darqueze Dennard, but why not try to further fill the void with Howard? A ball-hawking corner would solidify this defense where it needs help most, not to mention setting Murray up on some short fields via turnovers. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph knows Howard well -- he coached him in Miami in 2016 -- and prefers playing the man-to-man defense Howard excels in.
The Falcons gave up an NFL-high 4,697 passing yards last year (nearly 300 per game) and an NFL-worst 66 completions of 20-plus yards, then made no noteworthy upgrades at corner in the offseason. There is every reason to be excited about CB A.J. Terrell, who impressed in his first season and made NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt's All-Rookie team. But how many teams have a bigger question mark at CB2 than Atlanta? Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield didn't inspire much confidence last season. The club took Day-3 draft fliers on cornerbacks Darren Hall (fourth round) and Avery Williams (fifth round), and a free-agent flier on Fabian Moreau. This group needs juice.
Losing a franchise QB like Drew Brees to retirement can't signal a rebuild in New Orleans, not coming off an NFC South title and a 12-4 record. Opposing quarterbacks will be targeting whoever plays on the opposite side of star CB Marshon Lattimore, whether it's Patrick Robinson, rookie Paulson Adebo or some other veteran. The versatile Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is best suited to play in the slot -- and he could stay right there, with Howard on his flank. Barring an extension, Lattimore is set to become a free agent after the season and will be due for a bank-breaking contract. Keeping both Lattimore and Howard long-term isn't realistic, but if Lattimore walks after 2021, the club could retain at least one lockdown corner by re-working Howard's deal.
You're Seahawks general manager John Schneider. You've lost CB Shaquill Griffin in free agency. You don't have a proven CB1 in camp. You'll face Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray twice each this fall in the NFC West, plus Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson (if he's still the Texans' QB1) and Ben Roethlisberger. And lastly, the time to make a Super Bowl run is now. Enter Howard, a play-making cover man who could blanket opposing WR1s and serve as a transformative addition to the Seahawks' defensive backfield. Safety Jamal Adams is a nightmare of a blitzer, and Howard would offer the man-to-man skills that would help keep a lid on the back end of the defense while Adams does his thing.