Earlier this year, Tua Tagovailoa made headlines when he said he wasn’t comfortable calling plays and didn’t know the playbook “really really well“. That lack of comfort is an understatement compared to how the management of the Miami Dolphins are feeling right now in the midst of cornerback Xavien Howard’s holdout. The holdout by Howard isn’t news anymore. Everyone that watches NFL news already knows that. But what is newsworthy is the approach to Miami’s game plan when it comes to players holding out. When it comes to Xavien Howard’s holdout, there isn’t a play in the Dolphins playbook for that.
Dolphins head coach, Brian Flores made it clear that Howard’s holdout was a unique situation. That situation is a scenario that has never been done before. So, obviously the Miami Dolphins doesn’t want to put themselves in a situation to be the first NFL team to get sucker punched by a new contract on top of an already existing extended contract if the results backfire.
In a January interview with host of “Man to Man Pod” Darius Butler, Xavien Howard said that he felt like the Dolphins drafting cornerback Noah Igbinoghene and signing Byron Jones to an $82 plus million dollar contract was a slap in the face. In 2019, Howard signed a hefty $75.25 million dollar contract extension, but became a lower salary than Jones’ salary when he was signed by the Dolphins last year.
Xavien Howard’s holdout has become a debatable issue. It has divided some Dolphins fans as whether he should be paid what he is asking for or if Miami should get rid of him.
For what Howard is demanding from his holdout, the question that should be addressed isn’t if he has any leverage, but how much leverage does he actually have. There are over 100 articles, news stories, and sports blogs that will inform you that Xavien Howard was the first player to have 10 interceptions in a season in over 10 years. That is leverage. But what needs to be considered is further leverage.
The further leverage is certainly there but many people are not aware of it. That is because what Howard has actually accomplished in the NFL hasn’t been given a lot of detailed analysis among the sports media. But what Xavien Howard has done in the short amount of time spent in the NFL has been beyond remarkable.
XAVIEN HOWARD WAS ELITE IN 2020
Not only has Xavien Howard become the first NFL player to have 10 interceptions since 2007, but in 2020, he became only the 10th player in NFL history to have at least two seasons leading the league in interceptions. The last player to lead the NFL in interceptions three times, Ed Reed, never had a season with 10 interceptions. Richard Sherman and both Jalen Ramsey, who were once considered the best cornerbacks in the NFL respectively never have done that. In addition to leading the NFL in interceptions in 2020, Howard also led the league in passes defended with 20. Needless to say, Xavien Howard has a legitimate argument for leverage that he is now the best cornerback in the NFL.
From the business side of Dolphins management, a tough decision has to be made. But those decisions have to be made with whatever consequences follows. The two most important consequences would be non-productivity and an injury. Miami doesn’t want to find themselves coming to a financial agreement to keep Xavien Howard only to see his season become a season where he doesn’t perform as well as he did in his previous seasons.
The other consideration is that Howard’s NFL career has been plagued with injuries. The Dolphins want to get what they are paying for and if they paid out only to see their player sidelined with an injury, then the Dolphins lose. There are to many sports franchises to count in sports history that have paid huge salaries to superstar players only to lose them for the season due to an injury.
The Miami Dolphins certainly doesn’t want to find themselves as one of those franchises. Another consequence the Dolphins don’t want to happen is for them not to pay only to see Xavien Howard go to another team, have another career year, and help that team win a championship.
The options that Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is facing with Howard’s holdout are difficult. If Miami chooses not to restructure Howard’s contract to his liking nor choose to trade him, they potentially face having to still pay a player on his current contract, that isn’t playing because he is holding out for an entire season.
If they choose to get added security and pick up a free agent cornerback like Richard Sherman before the season starts, it may only add fuel to the fire in an already complicated situation. If they wait until the season starts to see what Howard’s move is, then they risk another team scooping up a veteran free agent cornerback like Sherman if they needed to so.
Dealing with holdouts for any team is a task that nobody wants to face. There are no plays in playbooks for holdouts. It requires hours of long work and negotiations. For many cases, players that holdout for an entire season are usually not with that team the next season. If Xavien Howard chooses to do that this year, then unfortunately for the Dolphins and their fans, trading him is inevitable.