There are several ways the stalemate involving Xavien Howard and the Miami Dolphins could play out over the next several weeks, up to and including a trade.
That obviously would be the most drastic scenario because it would mean the departure of the team's most talented player just one year after he led the NFL with 10 interceptions and finish third in the voting for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
But it's not as though the Dolphins have been afraid to make major moves in recent years.
DOLPHINS RECENT TRADE HISTORY
Over the past five years alone, the Dolphins have traded seven players who either already had made the Pro Bowl or would make the Pro Bowl with their new team.
That honor roll is made up of Branden Albert, Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The last four players were traded in 2019, the first year of the Chris Grier-Brian Flores partnership atop the Miami Dolphins football operations hierarchy.
None of those players were traded because of a contract stalemate, though the looming prospect of Tunsil's second contract might have play a role (however small) in the Dolphins accepting what turned out to be a really good offer from the Houston Texans.
The Fitzpatrick trade came as the result of the player requested a trade in light of his differences with Flores, and that move showed the Dolphins won't hesitate to trade a player no matter how talented if there's a problem involved that overshadows everything else.
ONE HOWARD POSSIBILITY
And, yes, the possibility exists that this could be the way this Howard saga plays out.
It was always believed after he changed agents last season that Howard would want a new contract because of his performance last year and how he went from the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL to not even tops on the team after the signing of Byron Jones last offseason.
The contract issue came to the forefront on the first day of minicamp this week when Flores acknowledged it was the reason the 2016 second-round pick wouldn't be at the team's facility all week.
Howard and his agent, David Canter, felt strongly enough about their position that they subjected him to fines up to a little more than $93,000 for skipping the only mandatory portion of the offseason program.
On performance alone, there's no question that Howard should be the highest-paid cornerback on the team because his performance in 2020 — when he tied the franchise record for interceptions — ranked among the most dominant by any Dolphins defensive player ever.
THE DOLPHINS' POSITION
But there's the other side, of course, and that's the reality that it was only two years ago — May 9, 2019, to be precise — that Howard signed a five-year contract extension.
The other reality is that Howard is under contract through the 2024 season and the Dolphins don't have to do anything.
If the Dolphins hold firm, Howard's only recourse is to simply not show up for training camp, but he again would subject himself to fines.
The Dolphins also could eventually agree with Howard's position and rework his contract, but they could view that as setting a dangerous precedent for any player who outperforms his contract.
The Dolphins obviously are a better team with Howard on the roster, so they'll have to decide what becomes more important.
Then there's the scenario of Howard eventually giving up on the idea of an immediate contract restructure, but under the scenario we're looking at the strong possibility of having an unhappy player on the team — and a key one at that.
THE FITZPATRICK EXAMPLE
The Dolphins didn't want that with Fitzpatrick in 2019 when he was in the second year of a rookie contract good for four years plus an option, so they sent him away. Would they take the same approach with Howard?
It's obviously difficult to predict what will happen.
Canter has declined to comment on his player's situation all offseason and Flores made clear the two sides of the issues from the Dolphins standpoint this week when he talked about how much he values Howard but also what a unique situation this is.
Something had to give in minicamp, and it was Howard who made the bold move. Things will get more serious once training camp begins and we move closer to a resolution whatever it might be.
All we know is even though trading Howard would be a dramatic step for the Dolphins, it's impossible to eliminate that possibility.