As more websites and media outlets throw out potential trade scenarios involving Xavien Howard, the obvious question remains: Why would the Miami Dolphins even think about trading the All-Pro cornerback?
After all, Howard is under contract (for four more years) and the likelihood that he would hold out for very long isn't high given the cost involved in terms of fines.
The Dolphins also have a team that should contend for a playoff spot, and there is no downplaying Howard's importance to the defense. In fact, calling him the most important player on that Miami defense is not a stretch.
So, again, why would the Dolphins considering trading Howard?
The answer is simple, and it has to do with not wanting to have an unhappy player — specifically an unhappy significant player — on their team.
It's easy to look from the outside and suggest the Dolphins should just make Howard honor his contract and suck it up, but given the nature of football, it's not quite as simple as that because there is so much coordination and teamwork involved in the sport.
There is precedent here, too, and it involved the Dolphins just two years ago.
The reference, of course, is to fellow defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who asked out early in his second season after being the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The issue had nothing to do with a contract back then and the Dolphins ended up trading him despite having contractual control for four more seasons.
Another difference in the two situations is that the 2019 Dolphins clearly were in rebuilding mode, whereas they're ready to win now — at least they should be.
But, again, do the Dolphins want to deal with an unhappy star player?
This is under the assumption the Dolphins will decline the request to revisit Howard's contract, which was extended in May 2019 and has four years remaining.
And the reason the Dolphins would decline to redo the contract, more than anything, has to do with setting a precedent that could lead other players to make the same kind of request down the line.
According to overthecap.com, Howard's annual average salary of $15.1 million ranks sixth among NFL cornerbacks but only 36.1 percent of it is guaranteed. The guarantee percentage is third-worst among the 18 cornerbacks with an annual average salary of $10 million or more.
By all standards, the argument can be made that Xavien Howard now is underpaid given his place among players at his position.
But, again, he did sign that contract extension two years ago and it does have four years remaining on it.
CBSSports.com columnist (and former agent) Joel Corry suggested as a potential solution the idea of moving some of Howard's compensation from the future to now, similar to what the Buffalo Bills did with wide receiver Stefon Diggs after acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
The question, of course, is whether that would be agreeable with both parties.
Any way this plays out, it appears something will have to give. But there's no guarantee that will happen, and that's why the trade talk is out there.