Miami Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard has not reported for mandatory minicamp. The 27-year-old defensive back is presumably in a contract dispute, just one season removed from signing a long-term contract extension.
"It's pretty clear this is a contract situation," Dolphins head coach Brian Flores told reporters on Tuesday. "We've talked about it internally. That's what I believe it is. We have had discussions, and will continue to have those discussions ... X is a unique situation. He was extended, and now we're talking about a renegotiation of an extension. We've had a lot of discussions about that. Very unique situation, talking about a potential renegotiation after one year. Those are longer conversations. We understand that."
Here are the pros and cons of the Lions trading for the talented defensive back.
Howard is coming off of a 2020 season in which he led the National Football League in interceptions.
According to Sports Illustrated, "Howard was arguably the best cornerback in the NFL last season, leading the league in interceptions (10), which was the most picks a player has had since Antonio Cromartie had 10 in 2007. For his efforts, Howard was named First-Team All Pro and was third in voting for AP Defensive Player of the Year. After his stellar 2020, Howard feels he's worth more than the deal he signed two years ago."
The Lions feature young but unproven defensive backs in Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye.
Signing veteran Desmond Trufant to replace Darius Slay proved unsuccessful, as Trufant was unable to stay on the field consistently.
With Howard in the mix, Detroit would be able to take the pressure off of its younger players.
Okudah would instantly benefit from having a player -- who has actually put up significant statistical numbers -- mentoring him in his second season in the league.
While his holdout will raise eyebrows, it is not plausible to believe that Flores would trade one of the centerpieces of his defense.
"While Xavien Howard is the best player on the roster -- and there might not be a close second -- it's difficult to envision the Dolphins wanting to redo his contract just two years after they signed him to a five-year extension," said AllDolphins reporter Alain Poupart. "So, it's absolutely logical to think the way this plays out is with a trade, provided the Dolphins can find a trade partner."
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During the 2019 offseason, Howard signed a five-year contract extension that was worth $75.3 million in total, including $27.2 million in guaranteed money.
For a rebuilding Detroit team, taking on a player who is likely seeking north of $14 million annually is bad timing.
In 2021, Howard is due to count $13.5 million against the Dolphins' salary cap.
His cap number will increase to $14.4 million in 2022.
In 2023 and 2024, Howard will count $13.4 million and $12.3 million against the salary cap, respectively.
In the past five years, Howard has missed 24 games due to knee injuries.
Last season was the first season since 2017 in which he played in all 16 games.
His difficulties in staying heathy could make trading for the veteran defensive back more of a risk than the Lions' new front office is willing to take at this point in its rebuild.
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